Payton, Magic send Blazers to third straight loss 111-104

(AP Photo/Willie J. Allen Jr.)

(AP Photo/Willie J. Allen Jr.)

The Orlando Magic defeated the Portland Trail Blazers Friday night 111-104 behind Elfrid Payton’s 2nd career triple-double with 22 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. ┬áLaMarcus Aldridge had 31 points and 10 rebounds but the Magic scored over 30 points in two quarters and ultimately couldn’t be stopped.

This, their defense, is an officially an issue for the Blazers post-Matthews’ injury. According to NBA.com, only the Sacramento Kings have had a worse defense over the last seven games in the league. Tonight was similar to their loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves in that there was no way that a team like the Magic should have multiple quarters scoring over 30.

The Magic took advantage on the offensive glass, outscoring the Blazers by 10 points (26-16) in second chance points. The Magic also made all of the plays that they needed to make to pull off the upset including Ben Gordon buzzer beaters. The Magic had more assists but the Blazers also didn’t shoot very well from long range.

Turnovers were a much bigger problem for the Blazers in the first half than it was in the second. Portland committed eight first half turnovers before finishing with 13 on the game. The turnovers were a big reason why the Magic went on an 11-0 run after Portland made the game’s first basket.

Chris Kaman played well before leaving the game with a shoulder strain. Around the second quarter, it clicked for Damian Lillard that he should attack the rim. Lillard scored 14 of his 18 points in the second quarter, doing it mostly by getting to the rim and to the line. His outside shot didn’t fall Friday and he didn’t or wasn’t able to create the same opportunities around the rim.

Elfrid Payton was balling once again, notching his second straight triple-double, becoming the first rookie since 1997 to accomplish that feet. Channing Frye played inspired against his former team, making big plays for Orlando’s offense in the third quarter. Payton, Victor Oladipo and Nik Vucevic combined for 66 total points.

Portland could only envy such balance. Aldridge scored 23 points in the second half while the four other starters for the Blazers combined for eight point. The Blazers are riding a losing skid going into a crucial game against the Grizzlies for playoff seeding.

The Blazers have the comfort of winning the division and it is more comfy after the news from Oklahoma City that Kevin Durant is out indefinitely. They will be a top-four seed but the questions left to answer are will they host a series and who will they play?

But right now, those questions aren’t important. The most important thing the Blazers must work on is their defense. It hasn’t been the same since Matthews went down. They held James Harden to 18 points but the last few games has seen their defense drop from top-3 in the league to 10th.

The Blazers are going to be at 2.5 games behind the Grizzles for the 2nd seed in the West.

But wins and losses are not Portland’s biggest problem right now. It’s their defense that had been one of the league’s best that has slowly become a shell of its former self.

Last season, the Blazers hit rock bottom in Orlando and Matthews was there to lay into the Blazers.

They’ve hit a rough patch once again and their offense has been as good as its been all season during it. Perhaps it has given them the confidence that they can play with fire. But lately, it’s the Blazers who’ve been burned.

Other things:

  • Kaman left the game with a shoulder strain. He’s rebounded well against the Grizzles even though he’s struggled to score efficiently in the last two meetings. If he can’t go, we will likely see more of the Meyers Leonard-Joel Freeland front court which we saw some of in the 2nd half Friday.
  • Leonard made his first 3-pointer in seven days. He’s still a reliable shooter and his shooting 44 percent from long range on the season. His spacing continues to help Portland’s offense.
  • Nic Batum didn’t have the type of night you would hope offensively, taking just five shots. He had 11 rebounds and four assists. His counterpart Moe Harkless didn’t have a great game either but when Afflalo and Lillard struggle from the outside, they needed someone else to make jumpers.
  • Robin Lopez made an scoring impact in the 2nd quarter but he wasn’t as much of a factor in the 2nd half.
Erik Gundersen

Erik Gundersen

Erik Gundersen is the Trail Blazers beat reporter for The Columbian. He's a graduate of the Allen School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon in addition earning a degree in Spanish. He's covered the NBA for four seasons. You can also occasionally find his work on ESPN.com's NBA section for their TrueCities series. He also fist-bumped with Kanye West once. Follow @BlazerBanter on twitter for more Blazers and NBA news.

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