Trail Blazers, Magic hoping to correct inconsistencies
Inconsistencies often highlight performances for teams who are hovering around .500.
For the Portland Trail Blazers, a noticeable example might be their recent results at home compared to games played in the Eastern Time Zone heading into Friday’s visit with the Orlando Magic.
Since Nov. 20, the Trail Blazers (14-13) are 4-6 in their last 10 games but how they got there is unique.
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After winning at Memphis on Nov. 20, the Blazers lost by 20 two nights later at Philadelphia. Then they pulled off close wins in Brooklyn and Washington on a back-to-back Nov. 24-25 and recorded a double-digit win at New York Nov. 27.
After getting those wins, the Blazers dropped five straight, including four in a row at home. Portland seemed headed for a sixth straight loss Wednesday but rallied from 16 points down to win at Miami.
It was Portland’s fourth comeback from a double-digit deficit this season and third in the Eastern Time Zone. Portland faced an early 11-point deficit in Brooklyn and rallied from 17 points down in Washington.
On Wednesday, the Trail Blazers trailed by 16 with 8 1/2 minutes left in the third. Portland outscored Miami 48-25 the rest of the way and held the Heat to 7 of 27 shooting.
“We had to do whatever it takes to come away with a win,” Portland guard CJ McCollum said.
McCollum led Portland with 28 points while Damian Lillard added nine of his 18 in the fourth quarter.
Portland’s backcourt duo enjoyed plenty of help with five in double figures. Al-Farouq Aminu totaled 15 points and 13 rebounds for his second double-double of the season while Ed Davis added 11.
“CJ can go out there and have a huge game, I can go out there and have a huge game and (we can) go steal one from somebody,” Lillard said. “And then you can have it done by committee with everybody pitching in and guys doing things that you need them to do to be successful. That’s the way that you prefer to have it and I think that’s how we got it tonight.”
Those performances compensated for the absence of starting center Jusuf Nurkic, who missed his third straight game with a sprained right ankle. Nurkic, who averages 15.1 points and 7.8 rebounds, is questionable for Friday.
Meanwhile, location doesn’t matter for Orlando (11-18), which is struggling to win games in the last month while dealing with a crowded injured list.
Since a 16-point win at Phoenix on Nov. 10, the Magic have lost 14 of their last 17 games. The Magic are on a three-game losing streak after Wednesday’s 105-96 home loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
Orlando’s latest loss was notable for who didn’t play. Evan Fournier missed his third straight game with a sprained ankle, Aaron Gordon missed his third with a concussion, Arron Afflalo sat with back spasms while Terrence Ross (knee), and rookie Jonathan Issac (sprained right ankle).
Those absences created a starting lineup with only two opening night starters in Nikola Vucevic and Elfrid Payton. The rest of Orlando’s starting lineup consisted Jonathon Simmons, rookie Wes Iwundu, and Mario Hezonja.
Simmons led the Magic with 20 points but shot 6 of 17, Hezonja added 17 points in his second start of the season but Vucevic and Payton were held to 14 and 13 respectively.
Orlando held a 12-point lead early in the second quarter but was outscored 84-62 the rest of the way.
“We need to play with more energy,” Vucevic said. “Especially when you have guys like we have down, that are out, we need to have a lot of energy to make up for those losses.”
Gordon suffered a concussion when he collided with Denver guard Gary Harris last Friday and was hoping to return after passing the first three stages of the NBA’s concussion protocol. He will not be cleared to play until an independent physician clears him.
Gordon, Issac, and Affalo may play Friday. All three are listed as questionable as Gordon and Issac participated in Thursday’s practice.
Portland has won nine of the last 15 meetings. On Nov. 15, the Magic held a 14-point lead early in the second quarter, but Portland came back and recorded a 99-94 home win.