ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN SPORTS) – After the Portland Trailblazers were down by as many as 11 in the fourth quarter, Damien Lillard decided to elevate his team to a whole new level. Lillard, who said he spent most of his All-Star break either at the team’s facility or resting at home, scored 17 of his game-high 33 points in the final period to help Portland win 112-103 against the Orlando Magic at Amway Center Thursday night.
“You just feel like you are going to will your team to a victory. It couldn’t have come at a better time.” – Damien Lillard
His performance in the last period overshadowed a solid effort by Orlando. Nikola Vucevic had 13 of his 25 points in the opening half as the Magic took a 9-point lead into the break. Orlando used solid defense and hustle plays to cause 15 first-half turnovers. Evan Fournier and Mario Hezonja both were in double-figures at the break as the Magic controlled the game and Lillard struggled with early foul trouble.
The game shifted when Blazers Head Coach Terry Stotts brought former Magic guard Shabazz Napier into the game. Napier came in and played outstanding defense on Elfrid Payton. His defense allowed Stotts to use a three-guard lineup for most of the second half.
“More than anything else it was his [Napier’s] defense. I liked his defense on the ball and I just didn’t feel comfortable taking him out.” -Blazers Head Coach Terry Stotts
Besides the defense, Napier had 10 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists off the bench to lead the short-handed Blazers. Portland did not have swing-man Evan Turner or defensive specialist Al-Farooq Aminu available to due injuries. But Portland’s newest acquisition, Jusuf Nurkic, had a solid all-around game from the center position. He had 12 points, 12 rebounds and 5 assists in 34 minutes of play for Portland.
This is the 6th loss in the last 7 games for the Magic as they enter a critical period in their run for the playoffs. Newly acquired small forward Terrence Ross struggled shooting the basketball as he went 4 for 17 from the floor and scored 13 points. But his ability to get to the rim is something the Magic have been lacking.
“…Up nine or whatever we were in the fourth quarter, you should win that game.” – Magic Head Coach Frank Vogel
The Magic return home on Saturday, February 25, 2017 for another key divisional game with the Atlanta Hawks at 7 p.m. At 21-38, Orlando desperately needs to win on Saturday if they want to keep up in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Points of Interest
- Point guard C.J. Watson will miss about a week of action with a right Achilles injury.
- Aaron Gordon started at power forward and scored 9 points and grabbed 9 rebounds in the game.
- The Magic struggled from beyond the arc. They shot 7 for 22 from the 3 point line and the Blazers shot 9 for 19
- Former Magic small forward Maurice Harkless scored 12 points and grabbed 6 rebounds in 38 minutes of play.
Danny Thompson is a contributing sports reporter for Florida National News. He can also be found over at NBA Full Court Press Radio.