Live from the Moda Center as the Portland Trail Blazers host the Orlando Magic.
Hey, remember when the Blazers were the best team in the league? The shine is off. After destroying the Bobcats last Thursday the Blazers have lost back-to-back games to the 76ers and Kings, two of the worst teams in the league. Doom, meet gloom.
With the luck of this franchise in the past, it’s hard not to imagine the sky is falling. The offense is slowing down, the defense isn’t improving, and oh my god blow it up and trade this entire roster now please! The meltdown was inevitable and predestined—nobody really expected the Blazers to compete for a championship this year, right?
Hey, Henny Penny, come in off that ledge. Things aren’t so bad.
The Blazers are settling in to what they actually are: probably the fourth or fifth best team in the West. Still really good! Better than anyone thought before the season started! The terrible losses will add up, sure, but does it really matter when we get games like last night in Sacramento where Damian Lillard went off for a career-high forty-one points, a ridiculous twenty-six of those coming in the fourth quarter? Sit back, enjoy the ride. This team is still fun as all hell.
If the Blazers lose to the terrible Magic tonight, then you can panic.
It’s clear Terry Stotts is working to find the right lineup combinations as he continues to tinker with the bench unit. First it was Meyers Leonard taking the place of Thomas Robinson, and last night Will Barton saw some meaningful minutes over Dorell Wright. So far it hasn't been working out too well. For as much improved as the bench was supposed to be, Portland still faces a massive drop-off in production when the starters sit down.
Maybe CJ McCollum can help in that department. If I had a guess, tonight will be the first time CJ sees the court after finally recovering from injury. That likely means less minutes for Mo Williams or more rest for Damian Lillard, both of which are net positives even if it takes CJ awhile to find his basketball legs.
As for the Magic, gone are the days of Kazaam and Lil Penny, gone are the days of the Fartmaster 9000, gone are the days of them being any good. There are some nice pieces here—Rookie of the Year candidate Victor Oladipo, underrated guard Arron Afflalo—but overall this roster is bad. Not Milwaukee Bucks bad, but not far off. They’ll end up with a nice lottery pick once this season is done.
If you prefer lowercase "m" magic instead of the Magic, make sure you check out today’s best thing. So good.
11:44 - After struggling a bit last night, LaMarcus Aldridge comes out and hits his first shot real early in the shot clock. No hesitation in that one. 2-0 Blazers.
10:30 - Big Baby Glen Davis is huge. Like, football player huge. His lack of hang time just got his shot blocked by Aldridge, which led to an easy fast break dunk on the other end. 9-2 Blazers.
9:19 - Uh oh, two quick fouls for Nicolas Batum. He was begging to be left in the game, but Stotts decided to pull him before he picked up number three. 9-5 Blazers.
7:42 - Aldridge just did his best Gandalf impersonation, telling Tobias Harris "you shall not pass" as he rejected his shot at the rim. That led directly to an open three from Wesley Matthews, and the Magic need time. 15-7 Blazers.
5:37 - When 300 pound Big Baby is beating you down the court in transition, you know you're doing something wrong. 15-13 Blazers.
4:03 - Mo Williams passed up an open layup to kick it out to an open three-point shooter. I know this team is built on jumpers, but sometimes you need to take those easy points. Especially when the threes aren't falling. 19-18 Blazers.
3:15 - CJ McCollum sighting! Here we go! The crowd is giving him a standing ovation as he checks in for the first time. 20-18 Blazers.
1:04 - McCollum with his first meaningful play as a Blazer...and it's a turnover that led to an open layup on the other end. The man is a bust. 24-24 Tie.
0:00 - Joel Freeland should be benched for infinity for letting Big Baby out-jump him on an offense rebound. 24-24 Tie.
11:26 - CJ with his first basket, a foul line jumper that came off of a nice little curl screen. He missed his first attempt, a corner three. 26-26 Tie.
9:14 - Aldridge is shooting 7-10 on the night. The rest of the Blazers are 4-18. Ugh. The shooting woes continue. 30-28 Magic.
7:40 - I appreciate the hustle, but Meyers Leonard is just hilarious. Taking a dive into the fourth row to try and save an already out of bounds loose ball? Yep, more of that please. McCollum sits after his first stretch—it wasn't a disaster, therefore it was a success. 32-32 Tie.
5:55 - I think I mention this every game, but getting beat down the floor off of a made basket is the worst. The worst. And yet the Blazers do it enough that it merits mentioning. They are starting to fall behind in this one, and plays like that certainly aren't helping matters. The Blazers need Aldridge back in this game in the worst way. 39-34 Magic.
4:38 - Ho hum, a twelve point deficit to one of the worst teams in the league. No big deal. 46-34 Magic.
3:29 - Big Baby has four offensive rebounds in this game already. If the Blazers actually want to win this one, there is a great place to start. Fundamentals, like boxing out, really do work. 47-38 Magic.
2:40 - Jumbotron proposal. Tonight is officially ruined. 47-40 Magic.
1:32 - Well, at least LaMarcus showed up tonight. He just picked up an and one after taking it hard to the rim at Big Baby. He's got 21 points already on the night and is carrying this team. 49-45 Magic.
0:00 - Not the first half the Blazers were hoping for. They managed to get it back to within a respectable six points, but getting down big to the Magic in the first place is not a good look. 51-45 Magic.
11:17 - First points of the quarter go to Nicolas Batum, who just got nothing but net on a three-pointer. A sign of good things to come for the outside shots this half? That 2-12 mark from the first half can't stand. 51-48 Magic.
10:00 - Aldridge just caught the Magic defense sleeping and was able to beat everyone down the court for an easy lay up, plus the foul. After he converted the three-point play, we're all tied up. 53-53 Tie.
8:49 - So much for that nice little run to start the quarter. The Magic are taking advantage of some sloppy play and Aldridge misses, and have broken it open a bit on an 8-0 run. Panic time. 61-53 Magic.
7:39 - Aldridge is doing all he can, tallying twenty-six points and seven rebounds here already. Once the outside shots start falling again—a big if at this point—the offense will look unstoppable. As for now, the team is still losing to the Magic. 61-55 Magic.
5:32 - Robin Lopez just picked up a technical. I think Blaze the mascot insulted his haircut and he was mad. 64-55 Magic.
3:44 - Mo Williams with the steal and bucket in transition, and this might be the first time all night the crowd has really been engaged in this game. Leave it to turnovers and the Kiss Cam to really get a crowd pumped. 66-61 Magic.
2:41 - Lillard three, tie game. The Magic need their second timeout in a little over a minute of play. 66-66 Tie.
1:54 - Mo Williams, king of the Flagrant Foul in transition. He just tried to rope Victor Oladipo to stop him from scoring, but instead took him down with a straight up head tackle. Oladipo's head went back like he had been taken down by his hair, except he doesn't have any. Oh, wait. Scratch that. The refs just downgraded the foul to a two shot foul, so I guess it wasn't that bad after all? 71-66 Magic.
0:00 - The Blazers are typically a great third quarter team but they only managed to knock two points off of the Magic's lead that quarter. It's going to be another close fourth. It's always a close fourth with this team. 75-71 Magic.
10:46 - Back to back baskets for Wesley Matthews and the Blazers take the lead! 76-75 Blazers.
10:11 - Thomas Robinson—he's back!—just hit a little runner in the lane to give the Blazers their biggest lead since forever. That's a 7-0 run to start the quarter. Hopefully that lead keeps building and we won't come down to another late game nail-biter. 78-75 Blazers.
8:57 - The Magic are unraveling, and the Blazers finally look like the better team that they are. Oh, and hey—there's the Thermals on the Jumbotron. 80-76 Blazers.
7:07 - Arron Afflalo is living up to his "I used to be jealous of Arron Afflalo" status, putting up twenty points in this game. That last jumper just put an end to a little Blazers run and quieted the crowd. Man, I hope he makes the All-Star team this year. Dude is so underrated. 85-82 Blazers.
6:15 - Hey now, another Blazers run. FIve quick points—three from Mo, two from Thomas Robinson—and the Blazers are looking good. Stotts has rolled with Robinson here for awhile in the fourth, and his energy is providing a nice spark. He just got crazy after a nice look hook shoot in the lane. He is amped. 90-82 Blazers.
5:31 - Block party. Lillard just tried to throw down on Victor Oladipo, who rejected it with one of the best blocks you'll see this year. No posters in here. Immediately on the other end, Batum got up and erased an Afflalo runner, getting way up to get a hand on it. That was so fun. I love basketball. 94-84 Blazers.
3:25 - Portland can't miss. It's amazing how much better this offense looks when the jumpers are falling. When the threes drop, like that last Lillard one from the corner, opponents don't have much hope. 99-87 Blazers.
2:14 - There it is. After that Matthews three, that's the game. The only thing left to see is if Batum can pick up one more rebound. If so, he'll have a triple-double on the night. 104-89 Blazers.
1:13 - I don't think the Blazers have missed in, what, ten shots? Since that Lillard dunk? Everything is dropping. LaMarcus just put in an off-balance jumper to give him 36 on the night. The Blazers are up 37-16 this quarter. 108-91 Blazers.
0:49 - And there's the triple-double for Batum. 14 points, 10 rebounds, 14 assists. Not too shabby. 110-91 Blazers.
FINAL: 110-94 Blazers. It was a close game for three quarters but the Blazers turned it up when it counted, destroying the Magic in the fourth. Batum ended up with a triple-double while Aldridge had 36 points and 9 rebounds. Winning in convincing fashion, especially after the last two rough losses, feels good.