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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Orlando Magic Preview

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The Blazers look to end their 3-game losing streak with a win against the Magic in Portland.

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NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (12-8) vs. Orlando Magic (10-11)

Wednesday, November 28 - 7:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Jusuf Nurkic (probable), Seth Curry (probable)
Magic injuries: Aaron Gordon (day-to-day), Timofey Mozgov (out)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, NBA TV
How to stream: YouTube Live TV, Playstation Vue, Hulu Live TV, FuboTV
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Orlando Pinstriped Post

The Portland Trail Blazers hope to get back on track Wednesday night against the Orlando Magic. The Blazers have lost three in a row including blowout road losses to the Milwaukee Bucks and Golden State Warriors and a close loss to the Clippers at the Moda Center on Sunday. The Blazers beat the Magic 128-114 in Orlando earlier this season.

Orlando is halfway through a six-game road trip. They are 1-2 on the trip so far with an impressive win against the Lakers coming in the middle of losses in Denver and Golden State. Back spasms forced Aaron Gordon to miss most of the second half of Monday’s loss to the Warriors—a game in which the Magic led by 18 in the third quarter.

What to watch for

  • Stopping Nikola Vucevic. The Magic big man is having his best season yet. He’s averaging a career high in points with 20.8 per game while pulling down 11.3 boards and dishing 3.7 assists. He’s also having his best shooting season hitting 54.9 percent of his shots and 39 percent on threes. The 7-footer has been playing especially well lately putting up 26.4 points, 12 rebounds, and 4.3 assists in his last seven games. It certainly helps Portland that Jusuf Nurkic is expected to play after suffering a shoulder contusion in Sunday’s loss to the Clippers. Vucevic went for 24 and 11 when the teams played earlier this season, but Nurkic added 18 points and 10 rebounds of his own.
  • Can Orlando stop Dame and CJ? The Magic have had a difficult time slowing down Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. In this season’s previous matchup Lillard went off for 41 points while McCollum chipped in another 22. The Blazers’ starting guards hit 3’s, got to the line, and were able to draw plenty of fouls (shooting a combined 16-18 on free throws). They each scored over 20 in both of last season’s matchups versus Orlando. The Magic will certainly try to limit the scoring of Lillard and McCollum.
  • Portland’s defense. The Blazers had a top-ten defense through October allowing 109.1 points per game with a defensive rating of 106.4. However, they are ranked 20th in November; and in their past seven games, Portland has the league’s worst defensive rating and is giving up 119 points per game. The Magic are toward the bottom of the league in offensive rating, but they are capable of scoring if the Blazers don’t step up on the defensive end.

What they’re saying

Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times praised former USC star Vucevic and wondered about his upcoming free agency:

“He’s probably a little bit overlooked,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said before Vucevic torched his defense for 31 points. “He’s a very, very good player. From coaches, players who have to play against him, when you watch tape on him, he can score all over the floor on you. And he’s a nightmare to match up with.”

Vucevic is building a strong case to make his first All-Star Game, averaging a career-best 20.4 points, more than 11 rebounds and three assists a game. But, with his contract expiring at the end of the season, no one, Vucevic included, can be sure how much more time he’s got in Orlando.

With a relatively modest $12.75 million salary, he could be one of the league’s most attractive players once the trade season starts to kick into high gear Dec. 15, when most players who signed free-agent deals last summer can be dealt.

John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com wrote about Aaron Gordon’s defense after Kevin Durant brought the Warriors back against the Gordon-less Magic:

Clearly, things could have been different in the second half had Gordon – the Magic’s best on-ball defender all season – had been able to play in the second half. Over the previous two weeks, Gordon had done a phenomenal job in guarding Philadelphia’s Simmons (three-of-five shooting, nine points), Los Angeles’ James in Orlando (eight-of-19 shooting, 22 points), Toronto’s Leonard (eight-of-16 shooting, 18 points), Denver’s Millsap (five-of-eight shooting, 14 points) and James in Los Angeles on Sunday (eight-of-14 shooting, 24 points). In that five-game stretch, Simmons (15.5 points per game), James (28.3 points per game) and Leonard (24.7 points per game) failed to get their season averages in scoring against Gordon while Millsap (12.9 points per game) barely eclipsed his season mark.

Orlando Pinstriped Post’s Garrett Townsend listed Terrance Ross as a player trending up in his Magic quarter season report:

There is one thing that is primarily responsible for Ross’s hot start: his shooting. He’s currently connecting on over 42% of his attempts from deep, a career-best figure for a player who already has a reputation as a long-range threat. When combined with improved finishing in the mid-range it adds up to a healthy true shooting percentage of .586. Chuck in a slight uptick in his passing game and assist rate and you’ve got pretty solid output from a player who hadn’t previously hit his stride in Orlando. Let’s hope there’s even more to come.