Magic-Trail Blazers Preview
A visit to Portland might not offer the Orlando Magic the ideal opportunity to snap their longest skid in seven seasons.
The Magic look to avoid a ninth consecutive loss Monday night against the Trail Blazers, who are trying to win eight straight at home for the second time in three seasons.
Orlando (12-21) was riding a season-high four-game winning streak when starting forward Glen Davis was lost for at least four weeks after he sprained his left shoulder during a 90-83 win over Washington on Dec. 19. The Magic have not won since, allowing 104.6 points per contest during their eight-game skid - the team's longest since Feb. 6-22, 2006.
The Magic last lost nine in a row during a 13-game slide March 13-April 10, 2004.
"I told our guys that this is about different challenges throughout the course of the season and everyone wants to win - it's what makes us competitors,'' first-year coach Jacque Vaughn said.
Orlando has been competitive during the slide, losing five times by four points or fewer. It suffered two-point losses to both Miami and Chicago prior to Saturday's 114-106 home defeat to New York.
The Magic shot 48.2 percent, outrebounded the Knicks by five and led by eight heading into the fourth quarter.
"Clearly we have to learn how to win, if that makes sense,'' said guard Arron Afflalo, who shook off a hard fall to score 20 of his 29 points in the second half. "Coach is doing a great job in terms of the schemes of the game plan. We're definitely competing hard as players, but we need to learn how to win.''
Jameer Nelson has done his part by totaling 61 points on 21-of-40 shooting over the last two games since missing the previous two with a strained hip. Nelson had 29 with eight assists Saturday, leaving him two assists shy of breaking Scott Skiles' franchise record of 2,776.
Nelson had 16 points and five assists when Orlando avoided a third consecutive defeat at Portland with a 107-104 victory Jan. 11.
The Magic could face a tougher challenge when opening a four-game trip at the Rose Garden, where the Trail Blazers (18-15) are 11-4 and allowing 88.6 points on 41.8 percent shooting over the last seven contests.
Portland, which last won eight straight at home March 5-April 3, 2011, returns home trying for a third consecutive victory overall after a 3-1 road trip. Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum combined to make 10 of the team's franchise record-tying 16 3-pointers Saturday at Minnesota, and each finished with 26 points as the Trail Blazers held on for a 102-97 win.
Portland - winner of 10 of 13 - saw its 22-point lead trimmed to two while giving up 36 points in the fourth quarter.
"If you shoot the 3 that well, you should probably win by more than five,'' coach Terry Stotts said.
Stotts' players, however, see the result as another example of their collective character.
"We're resilient, we can play,'' said Matthews, who has scored 47 points and gone 10 of 15 from beyond the arc in the last two games. "We're good. We can win. We're a playoff team.''
Portland star LaMarcus Aldridge has recorded 47 points in the last two meetings with Orlando.