The Portland Trail Blazers bounced back from their first loss of the season on Monday night with a 128-114 victory over the host Orlando Magic to kick-off the season’s first road trip. Damian Lillard, who had seven points in the first half, went scorched earth in the second half after being heckled by a Magic fan. He finished with a game-high 41 points, setting a franchise record for second half scoring in the process.
After the Blazers jumped out to a double-digit lead in the second quarter, the Magic rallied back to pull within five, before the Blazers recovered to take a 10-point lead into the half. The third quarter belonged to Lillard, who scored 21 in the stanza. Orlando went on a big run in the fourth to pull to within three, after trailing by as many as 16, but Portland again weathered the storm to hold on for the 14-point victory.
Battle of the Bigs
The anticipated match-up of Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Vucevic lived up to the hype, particularly in the first quarter. The two centers went back and forth, with the Blazers running their offense through the Bosnian Beast early. While Nurkic still struggled to defend the outside shot, he was extremely aggressive on offense, finishing with 18 points and 10 boards on 7-14 shooting, while taking it strong to the rim on a number of occasions. Vucevic finished with the better stat line, leading the Magic with 24 points and 11 rebounds in 31 minutes, shooting 10-16 from the field and 2-3 from distance.
Second Unit Continues to Shine
The biggest storyline of the early season from the Blazers continues to be their bench, as they but together another strong performance on Thursday night, with Zach Collins leading the way. Collins had a tremendous night offensively, scoring 17 points in 18 minutes on a perfect 7-7 shooting, including a couple of three pointers. He was able to score in a variety of ways, whether it be driving to the rim, throwing it down, or dialing from distance. Perhaps his most impressive play came on a post-up of Mo Bamba, in which he finished with a pretty fadeaway over the lengthy rookie in the first quarter.
Seth Curry had a solid night as well, scoring 11 points on 5-8 shooting in a season-high 22 minutes, and was on the court down the stretch for the first time this year.
Evan Turner finished with eight points and seven assists on 4-5 shooting in 28 minutes.
McCollum Makes Amends
CJ McCollum bounced back from a rough shooting night against the Wizards on Monday to finish 7-12 from the floor and 2-3 from three, netting 22 points in 29 minutes. Lillard’s shooting obviously stole the show, but it was good to see CJ’s trend of solid play after a rough game continue.
Jekyll and Hyde
The Blazers offense was firing on all cylinders tonight, as the team shot 55% from the field and just shy of 41% from three-point land. They scored 30 or more points in all but the second quarter, in which they scored 25.
The defense, on the other hand, was a different story, particularly in the second half. The Magic scored 66 points in the second half, including 36 in the third quarter. They were able to score almost at will at times, knocking down open looks and getting to the rim with ease.
While Lillard was able to come up clutch, that level of play isn’t sustainable, and the fact that the team seemingly let off the gas against an inferior opponent doesn’t bode well going forward. This has been a major problem for the team over the last few seasons, and you’d hope this will remain the exception, not the rule this year.
-Portland native Terrance Ross had a solid shooting night off the bench for the Magic, finishing with 21 points on 8-14 shooting (5-9 from distance).
-Moe Harkless, who did not appear on the pre-game injury report, logged twenty minutes against his former team, he took just one shot and didn’t score.
-Jake Layman started the game, but after a six-minute shift, wasn’t seen again. Harkless started the second half in his place.
The Trail Blazers (3-1) head to South Beach for a meeting with the Miami Heat on Saturday night. Tip-off is scheduled for 5 pm CT.