Lillard scores 36 as Trail Blazers beat Magic 118-103
Even a little injury scare for Carmelo Anthony turned out all right.
Portland earned its season-high third straight victory despite losing Anthony to a bruised left knee in the second quarter. The Trail Blazers improved to 8-7 since Anthony joined the team a month ago.
“Everything is good,” Anthony said. “It was just a knee-to-knee contusion. I’ve done it before. I didn’t want to take a chance going out there, we were rolling and we set the tone early. I was fortunate enough to look at the score and we were up 20 at one point in time. It happens.”
Anthony said he intends to play Saturday night against Minnesota.
Hassan Whiteside added 10 points and 17 rebounds for Portland in his 13th straight double-double.
“It feels good for the game to feel like we’re supposed to win,” Lillard said. “When it gets down the stretch, whether it’s a tough game or whatever is happening, it feels like we’re going to pull this out. Not like, alright, how is this going to go? It feels like we’re rolling. It’s not like crazy things are happening for us to win.”
Nikola Vucevic led Orlando with 23 points and 11 rebounds.
Portland’s backcourt took over in the third quarter. Lillard had 16 points and three assists in the period, helping the Blazers build a 93-75 lead. McCollum scored 10 points in the quarter.
D.J. Augustin scored 17 points for Orlando, and Evan Fournier had 16. Aaron Gordon grabbed 11 rebounds in the Magic’s sixth loss in seven games.
Orlando was hurt by a slow start. Portland put together a 14-0 run and led 31-13 after the first quarter.
“We just tried to pack the paint, force them into tough shots, funnel them into Whiteside and secure the rebound,” McCollum said.
The long scoring drought prompted Vucevic to throw a towel down in frustration after being subbed out.
“Our defense wasn’t at the level it needed to be against a team like that with the kind of players they have,” Vucevic said. “With two great players like Lillard and (McCollum) we just have to so a better job at that end.”
Gordon struggled again, going 4 for 17 from the field while scoring 11 points. He is shooting 40.6% from the field, by far the lowest mark of his six-year career.
“We all go through it at some point. He’ll bounce back out of it,” Vucevic said. “We all know how good Aaron is and what he brings to the table for us. He keeps competing and keeps playing hard so he’s gonna make shots.”
The Magic got back into the game with a 14-2 run to start the second quarter. They trailed 57-44 at halftime.
Orlando played without Michael Carter-Williams in the second half after he departed with a left shoulder injury. The Magic closed out a 1-3 road trip.
Magic: One of the biggest surprises of the NBA season has been the play of Markelle Fultz, who was selected by Philadelphia with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft. Fultz struggled at the start of his career with the 76ers, but he has worked his into the starting lineup for the Magic. “He has an ability to set a tone on both ends of the floor on every possession,” coach Steve Clifford said. “And I think that’s what the best point guards do. He’s in the paint, which was one of our big weaknesses last year. When he’s on the floor we’re much more inside out and we score off of his penetration.” Fultz had 10 points and four assists in the loss. He also had a rousing dunk in the fourth quarter on Portland’s Anthony Tolliver.
Trail Blazers: Former Blazers forward Al-Farouq Aminu, who is rehabbing his way back from a torn meniscus, got a loud ovation when he was shown on the big screen during the fourth quarter. Aminu signed with Orlando in free agency. “He was probably our best post defender,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “He guarded perimeter guys, he guarded centers. He was an exceptional player in his role for us in that, especially defensively but also offensively he developed into a very important 3-point shooter for us.”
Magic: Monday vs. Chicago Bulls.
Trail Blazers: Saturday vs. the Timberwolves.