The NBA scoring torrent continued tonight as the Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Orlando Magic 128-114, winning their inaugural road game of the new season and pushing their record to 3-1. The outing wasn’t smooth, but focus proved a greater challenge than the Magic. Portland’s bench players acquitted themselves well, but that might not have been enough to bring victory on a night when Portland’s defense started strong, then melted as the game progressed. When all else failed, Damian Lillard scored 41 points to make sure his team walked away with the win.
Here are key developments from the evening.
The Passing Game
The Blazers had the ball moving in the first half, particularly among the bench players. Orlando just couldn’t keep up. The Magic moved well enough on defense, but it’s nearly impossible at the NBA level to guard the entire floor for an entire possession. That said, Portland’s bench lost effectiveness as soon as the ball movement stopped.
Zach Collins and Seth Curry looked almost brilliant at times, simply because their teammates set them up well and they followed through. Collins hit all 7 of his field goal attempts, including a pair of threes, scoring a career-high 17. Curry scored 11 on 5-8 shooting.
Damian Lillard Saves the Day
Portland’s first unit was actually a bit of a disappointment in this game. Their defense left something to be desired. When all else fails, though, Damian Lillard is a great failsafe. Lillard hit a trio of three-pointers, plus four shots at the rim and a mid-range jumper, in the third quarter alone. The Magic scored 36 in that period. Lillard kept Portland ahead, helping them to 33 even after getting destroyed defensively. When the Magic pulled within three midway through the fourth quarter, Lillard hit another three and another shot at the rim to put them back down.
The Good and Bad of Jusuf Nurkic
Jusuf Nurkic was a force inside, finishing the game with 18 points on 7-14 shooting with 10 boards, but Orlando went at him on the other end. Nikola Vucevic out-performed him, shooting 10-16 for 24 with 11 rebounds. The Magic also kept Nurkic running around on the perimeter whenever possible, a task to which he was not equal. The Magic ended up shooting 51% from the field tonight. Not all of that was Nurkic’s fault by far, but he didn’t help.
Starters, bench, or mixed lineups, the constant for Portland was three-pointers. Everywhere the ball went, the threat was evident. Whenever the Blazers lagged or flagged, the long ball became their “more cowbell” solution. Portland spent much of the game in the mid-40% range from distance before cooling down at the end, finishing 11-27 (41%) from the arc.
Ryne Buchanan will be along later with a more detailed look at the contest.
The Blazers face the Miami Heat on Saturday night.