Blazers hand Magic sixth straight loss despite Vucevic’s big night
PORTLAND, Ore. — The Portland Trail Blazers have had few breathers during this seven-game homestand, but Saturday night’s finale seemed well on the way to an easy victory.
Portland caught Orlando short-handed and riding a five-game losing streak. The Blazers were rolling early, and the Magic couldn’t shoot straight. Portland was about to coast to a victory when Magic center Nikola Vucevic got hot and extended the Blazers for four quarters before they secured a 103-92 win.
LaMarcus Aldridge hit 10 of 22 shots and scored 25 points to lead Portland (29-8). The Blazers tied Golden State for most wins in the NBA this season.
Vucevic made 15 of 23 shots, scored a career-high 34 points and grabbed 16 rebounds. But he couldn’t stop Orlando (13-27) from losing its sixth consecutive game.
As has often been the case during Portland’s 6-1 homestand, the Blazers needed a big fourth quarter to pull out the win. Wesley Matthews scored 10 of his 18 points in the fourth, including two free throws that gave the Blazers the lead for good at 87-85 with 3:56 remaining.
Portland appeared on its way a rout at the outset, as Orlando made just 5 of 22 shots during the first quarter, and trailed by as many as 19 in the first half. Then the Blazers eased up, Vucevic took over and the Magic often had Portland on the ropes in the second half.
"It was a great start for us, but we relaxed because we just thought it was going to be easy. We took what we did for granted and they took advantage of that," Portland guard Damian Lillard said.
Vucevic had 15 points and 10 rebounds in the first half, then continued to punish Portland by scoring twice during Orlando’s 11-0 run early in the third quarter.
Portland eventually found an antidote in Matthews.
Matthews made several hustle plays during the fourth quarter, including two steals and a circus-like reverse layup that gave the Blazers a 91-85 lead. Matthews appeared to finish Orlando when his 3-pointer with 1:19 left put Portland up 96-89.
"That’s what he does for us every night. He’s a soldier," Lillard said of Matthews.
Portland coach Terry Stotts noted his team’s struggles, but liked the result and the Blazers’ finishing kick.
"We made a lot of plays in the last five minutes to secure a win. It was a little disappointing to give up the lead, but in the end, we did what we needed to do," Stotts said.
Vucevic said Friday’s 14-point performance against the Los Angeles Lakers motivated him against the Blazers.
"I wanted to come out aggressive and have a better performance than last night," Vucevic said. "We wanted to come out and show a better performance and I think we did that, against one of the best teams in the league. We played them to the end."
Portland had five players in double figures.
Victor Oladipo had 18 points and eight rebounds for Orlando.
The Magic out-rebounded Portland 49-43. The Blazers lead the NBA in rebounding at 46.7 per game.
Magic: F Tobias Harris (ankle) and G Evan Fournier (knee) both sat out against the Blazers. They both suffered injuries during Friday’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers. … G Devyn Marble made his first NBA career start. … The Magic’s six-game losing streak is a season high.
Trail Blazers: G Allen Crabbe strained his left knee during Thursday’s win over Miami, and will miss at least two games. … Portland went 6-1 on its seven-game home stand, losing only the East Division-leading Atlanta. … The Blazers won its NBA-best 19th home game.
Magic: Visit Chicago on Monday
Trail Blazers: Visit Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday