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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Orlando Magic Preview

A night after a close victory in Miami the Blazers visit the newly depleted Orlando Magic.

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NBA: Orlando Magic at Portland Trail Blazers Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (26-18) vs. Orlando Magic (15-29)

The Portland Trail Blazers continue their trip through Florida with a visit to the Orlando Magic. The Blazers are playing the second of a back-to-back after a last second win in Miami Thursday night. The Magic won a close game against the Suns on Wednesday but have lost 11 of their last 13 games. Norman Powell will be available, and he will join the starting lineup.

Friday, March 26 - 5:00 p.m. PT
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, NBA League Pass or see games all season on fuboTV
Blazers injuries: Zach Collins (out), Damian Lillard (out)
Magic injuries: Markelle Fultz (out), Jonathan Isaac (out), Cole Anthony (out), Terrence Ross (questionable),
SBN Affiliate: Orlando Pinstriped Post

Update: The Blazers have reported that Damian Lillard is out for tonight’s game.

What To Watch For

  • Who will score for the Magic? Orlando was very active at the trade deadline, trading away Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon, and Al-Farouq Aminu. Vucevic, Fournier, and Gordon are three of the Magic’s top four scorers. With Terrence Ross questionable (he has missed the past five games) and both Markelle Fultz and Cole Anthony out, it’s possible Orlando won’t have any players who average 10+ points per game this season. The Magic’s offense wasn’t great to begin with — their 104.5 points per game are the second lowest in the league. Portland’s defense has frequently allowed mediocre offenses to look great, but they are catching the Magic at a nice time.
  • Jusuf Nurkic’s return! The Blazers announced that Nurkic will be making his return against the Magic. Portland’s big man has played in 12 games this season averaging 9.8 points and 7.7 rebounds in 23 minutes per game. Nurkic’s return will likely move Enes Kanter back to a reserve role. Kanter has filled in admirably averaging 12.9 points on 58.6 percent shooting and 12.7 rebounds while playing 29.7 minutes per game as a starter (up from 6.5 points and 8.9 rebounds in 18.7 minutes).
  • Will Norm Powell make his Blazer debut? It’s unclear if the newly acquired Norman Powell will suit up for Portland on Friday or wait until Sunday’s matchup against his former team the Toronto Raptors. Having another scorer to take the pressure off Lillard and McCollum would go a long way. McCollum looked to be getting back into rhythm on Thursday with a 35 point 8 assist performance, but he has yet to string together multiple quality games since returning from his foot fracture. Lillard hit the game-winning free throws on Thursday but looks like he could use a night off after banging his sore knee.

What Others Are Saying

Mike Cali of Orlando Pinstriped Post gave his thoughts on Aaron Gordon leaving the Magic:

Gordon easily could evolve into an All-Star caliber player while playing in the right role on a Nuggets team that could make a deep postseason run. For a Magic fan base that has already watched Victor Oladipo and Tobias Harris thrive after being dealt by Orlando, it is a frightening proposition.

But Gordon was never surrounded by the right players with the Magic, with the front office drafting and extending comparable frontcourt players, and he never fully evolved as a player to meet his full potential.

Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel laments the Magic’s trading of Vucevic:

Yes, I understand the strategic reasoning for trading Vooch, but it doesn’t mean we have to like it. Logically it might make sense, but historically and emotionally it stinks! We all know the Magic’s sordid history of trying futilely to keep their All-Stars (see Shaq, Penny, T-Mac and Dwight) who ended up leaving anyway. Vooch actually wanted to stay and the Magic traded him anyway.

I did a column on Vooch just a couple of weeks ago and he told me that even though he has endured nearly a decade of failed rebuilds, fired coaches, injured teammates and constant losing (the Magic have a collective record nearly 200 games below .500 in Vooch’s nine seasons), he still “loves it” in Orlando.

Dan Devine of The Ringer gave his analysis of Orlando’s trade deadline moves:

It’s hard to fault the Magic for deciding it was time to move on from the previous core. It’s just also hard to get too excited about a new core of Jonathan Isaac (who’s coming off consecutive devastating leg injuries), Fultz (who’s coming off an ACL tear), a center tandem of Carter Jr. (who’s an intriguing player, but one whose development fell off a cliff in Chicago) and Mo Bamba (who’s played 224 minutes this season and at this point remains more of a theoretical prospect than an actual one), and rookies Hampton, Cole Anthony (who’s been out since before Valentine’s Day with a fractured rib), and Chuma Okeke (who’s looked good!), and three extra protected picks over the next five years. The counterargument: The real core pieces are the ones to come with Orlando’s own first-round picks, since the team owns all of them, and they’re probably going to be really good, since the Magic are probably going to be really, really bad.