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Portland Trail Blazers at Orlando Magic Preview

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The Blazers try and pull out of their free fall against an Eastern playoff contender.

Boston Celtics v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Cameron Browne/NBAE via Getty Images

Portland Trail Blazers (26-35) at Orlando Magic (27-33)

March 2, 2020 - 4:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Rodney Hood (out), Zach Collins (out), Jusuf Nurkic (out), Damian Lillard (out), Anfernee Simons (questionable)
Magic injuries: Jonathan Isaac (out), 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

A trip to the other side of the country has gone about as bad as it can go, and now the Portland Trail Blazers may be on the brink. A matchup with the Orlando Magic is make or break for the Blazers’ playoff chances.

A chance to get right went wrong in Georgia for the Blazers, as they were chased out by the Atlanta Hawks 129-117. CJ McCollum had 35 points, but the Blazers’ perimeter defense collapsed yet again, allowing the normally poor shooting Hawks to light them up to the tune of 42.9% from range. Trae Young’s 25 led a coalition of scorers for the Hawks.

For the Magic, they rallied to make things close against the San Antonio Spurs, cutting a 13-point deficit to one before being defeated 114-113. Evan Fournier had 23 to lead the Magic, who shot well from the field, but were beat by a red-hot Spurs squad. Trey Lyles scored 20 to pace the Spurs.

What to watch for

  • Any guards left? With Anfernee Simons questionable and Damian Lillard out, the Blazers are down to just two healthy guards. Orlando may be one of the few teams they can get away with this against, with Portland’s wings able to switch onto the larger Magic guards, but the glaring hole bodes poorly for the rest of the season.
  • Range plus size. Orlando has the prototypical view of what today’s NBA looks like: all of their bigs can and will shoot from three. While the results have been questionable this season, the logic is sound for Nikola Vucevic (32.6 percent from three) and Mo Bamba (35.8). This means Hassan Whiteside will have to come away from the rim, and that produces less than desired results more often than not. The depleted Blazers will need to find a solution.
  • Wake up Ariza. Trevor Ariza has had a rough going for the last several games, shooting 30% or below in three of four contests. Even worse, over that stretch he has shot just 5-of-16 from three. While his defense was the primary reason he was brought aboard, his inefficiency from range is costing the Blazers at a time where they need everyone to step up.

What they’re saying

Garrett Townsend of Orlando Pinstriped Post asks if Aaron Gordon is finally playing up to his potential:

In many circles of Magic conversation, AG already has a bit of a reputation as an inconsistent player who, down the season’s stretch, teases potential that is never fully realized. In actuality, it’s an assessment that’s a little unfair; Gordon’s performance has been basically as likely to be up as down post-All-Star break in seasons past, with upward trajectories in ‘17 and ‘19 balanced by an alarming dip in ‘18.

Chris Hays of the Orlando Sentinel talks coach Steve Clifford and the busy Orlando schedule down the stretch:

“To me, your best players have to be on the floor. If you have the kind of team where you can start saying, ‘Hey, we’re playing back-to-back and I’m gonna give this guy some time,’ you have a really good roster,” Clifford said. “With our team right here, guys gotta play their minutes and when the subs go in they gotta give us a chance and that’s it.