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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Orlando Magic Preview

The Blazers look to stay heating up against a Magic squad reeling from losses and injuries.

NBA: Orlando Magic at Portland Trail Blazers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (12-16) vs. Orlando Magic (12-16)

December 20, 2019 - 7:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Rodney Hood (out), Zach Collins (out), Jusuf Nurkic (out), Mario Hezonja (game-time decision)
Magic injuries: Jonathan Isaac (game-time decision), Al-Farouq Aminu (out)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW
How to stream: Blazer’s Edge Streaming Guide
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Orlando Pinstriped Post

The Portland Trail Blazers look to get a win in a battle of two playoff teams from a year ago suffering a disappointing start.

For the Trail Blazers, they took care of business at home against the injury annihilated Golden State Warriors 122-112 on Wednesday. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum combined for 61 points as Portland avenged an earlier loss to the Warriors in San Francisco. D’Angelo Russell paced the visitors with 26.

Orlando on the other hand lost to the Denver Nuggets in Denver 113-104. They held a 15-point lead at halftime, but Denver went on a 24-0 run in the third quarter to turn the tides. Nikola Vucevic had 20 points for the Magic, while Jamal Murray scored 33 for the Nuggets.

What to watch for

  • Win the forward battle. Despite missing Zach Collins and Rodney Hood, the Blazers can certainly win the frontcourt battle, especially if Jonathan Isaac misses the game. Aaron Gordon is in a severe slump, with his scoring and rebounding both down from last season. Wesley Iwundu plays sparingly. With the Magic usually going with a small lineup around center Vucevic, the Blazers can take advantage with Carmelo Anthony and Skal Labissiere.
  • Stop Evan Fournier. Fournier is one of those players who seems to especially thrive against the Blazers. Over his last four games versus Portland, he has averaged 18.5 points and 2.1 steals per contest. His pesky defense is at its best on drives to the paint, and he closes out on three-point shooters as well as anyone. Keeping him isolated and contained will boost Portland considerably.
  • Reunions must wait. In an odd twist, former Blazer Al-Farouq Aminu will miss the game, and former Magic player Mario Hezonja may miss the game as well. This would have been Aminu’s first game in Portland since signing with Orlando in the offseason. Aminu played four seasons for the Blazers, while Hezonja played three for the Magic.

What they’re saying

Garrett Townsend of Orlando Pinstriped Post rated the team’s efforts through the first third of the season:

It’s been a little over a month since we took the temperature of the Magic, and things have certainly changed. When we first checked in the team was 2-6 and mired in an all-time shooting slump: things were grim!

Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel praised the team’s training staff in how they handled a severe ankle injury to Nikola Vucevic:

That work included a lot of conditioning, mostly because early in his recovery, Vucevic couldn’t make cuts. Instead, he focused on running in a straight line and riding a stationary bike to maintain his endurance level.