Magic dominate second half in 102-94 win over Blazers

(AP Photo/John Raoux)

(AP Photo/John Raoux)

Another game, another dispiriting loss for the Portland Trail Blazers. Friday they fell to an improved Orlando Magic team 104-92. The Magic had a combined 50 points from Nikola Vucevic and Tobias Harris. CJ McCollum had an excellent game with 29 points but the Blazers didn’t have enough juice in the second half to stay with the Magic.

Vonleh with an early jumper. McCollum with eight points early. It was an ideal start. The Blazers started well offensively but so did the Magic. Orlando was successful offensively mostly because of the post play of Nikola Vucevic. It seemed like almost every halfcourt possession ended in Vucevic’s hands. The Magic also got out in transition where guys like Tobias Harris thrive.

It set a tone for the rest of the game as the Blazers struggled to slow Orlando down. Orlando was at their best in transition but they had no problem scoring in the halfcourt in the first half when the Blazers were still knocking down shots.

Portland’s offense was their saving grace early on and really throughout the night. The Magic have built success on a top-six defense in the NBA so far this season in defensive rating. But the Blazers didn’t appear to be bothered by Orlando’s constant activity on the perimeter. The Blazers did have a problem committing turnovers in the first half but that was offset by a lot of excellent offense from McCollum, Lillard and Allen Crabbe. The Blazers finished with 19 turnovers, Lillard hit some 3-pointers but wasn’t a consistent scoring force while Crabbe filled his expected role while nobody else off Portland’s bench produced offensively.

Te Magic had a lot of success despite the fact they lost their leading scorer in raw points Evan Fournier early in the game to a dislocated finger. Fournier came back in the first half but didn’t provide much on the offensive end. Fournier scored only two points on 1-of-7 shooting. The damage was done mostly by their young big-man duo of Vucevic and Harris.

The Blazers went into halftime trailing by one, needing to curb their turnover problem as well as find a way to slow down the Magic from scoring inside. That didn’t happen. ┬áMason Plumlee fouled out near the end of the game, but he fought hard in the post most of the night against Vucevic. Plumlee had 10 rebounds but he also had four turnovers and just one assist.

Victor Oladipo was a difference maker for the Magic off the bench. In the scouting report for this game, I found it an interesting coincidence that the Blazers were playing the Magic considering the situation regarding Meyers Leonard. Oladipo was moved to the bench and was a huge reason why the Magic won the game. Oladipo had six turnovers but he also had six assists, four rebounds, three steals and 15 points on 7-of-14 shooting.

The Magic are simply a better team than the Blazers. They have talented players who all understand their roles and rarely make defensive mistakes. Their offense also exposed the Blazers by having excellent movement away from their principle actions and getting shots at the rim, even in the half court.

The Blazers offense got away from them in the second half and rebounded only near the end when the game was basically already over. The Blazers made four 3-pointers in the final 2:30 but, as was the case the entire night, they struggled to get the stops they needed.

Notes

  • Meyers Leonard looked more comfortable tonight, finishing with four points and seven rebounds. He looked a little more confident in his shot and while the Blazers want him to take more shots, he was smart not to force it. The Magic closed out on him pretty hard when he caught the ball at the 3-point line and it was pretty clear that the Magic had established Leonard as a shooter on the scouting report. It’s also worth wondering whether Leonard’s recent struggles after some good games off the bench has to do with teams better understanding his shooting threat. Now that other bench units are scouting for him, they’re making him make tougher plays to help the offense.
  • Moe Harkless had another anonymous outing against his former team. He had 1 point, 1 rebound and two fouls. Harkless role has been diminished recently by the play of Gerald Henderson and he’s done little to make people wonder whether he deserves more playing time.
  • Al-Farouq Aminu hit four 3-pointers tonight. Not sure when that will happen again.
  • The Blazers have a day off before playing Miami on Sunday morning at 10 a.m.. The Heat have been pretty good and will provide different challenges than the Magic. Their guards, Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic, haven’t played up to expectation. Hassan Whiteside his a shot-blocking machine and Chris Bosh is playing at an All-Star caliber level.
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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