A Magical Night for Orlando
This comes off as looking like a case of too little, too late for the Trail Blazers. While that may be true to some extent, I'm not exactly sure if this game had more to do with Orlando or Portland. Some times you have to tip your hat to your opponent, swallow the bad feeling that comes with a loss, and move on.
In fact, while no one wanted to head into a six-game road trip with a game like this, we may have learned more about the Trail Blazers than we have in some of the victories. If you read my stuff often you know that I'm not always necessarily a cup-is-half-full guy when it comes to losses. But, in this case, I feel okay.
What stands out to me the most about this game is that Portland was able to absorb 16 of 27 three-point shooting, 59 percent shooting overall, by an opponent, and almost lived to tell about it. Orlando was well rested, had two days to practice on the Rose Garden court, and was just about as good as it can be.
Portland clearly wasn't at its best, and may have been caught a little flat footed out of the gate tonight. That much they should be criticized for. The fact that Orlando's first four baskets were basically at the rim, was a troubling sign. I can't tell how many games I've done where the tone of a game is set 60 seconds after the opening tip. You don't think it should always be that way, but sometimes it is. I mentioned early, I think when it was 6-0, that I was getting the feeling that Portland would be digging out of a hole the entire night. It just had that feel.
After Orlando built some confidence with those easy looks inside, they went to work on the perimeter. Collapse a defense and then spread them out. That was the game plan, and it worked perfectly. The Magic hit six three-point field goals in the first quarter, and another five in the second quarter, but carried just a 12 point lead to the locker room.
I fully expected Portland to start quickly in the third quarter, make it a very close game to start the fourth, and then win by 10 to 12 points. We've seen that before. But, to Orlando's credit, they were ready for the Portland run, and answered just about everything. They pushed their lead in the third to 23, with clutch shot after clutch shot.
You knew Portland would have another run, and this is why the Blazers are so tough to beat at home. The Blazers did charged back in this game, and cut Orlando's lead to 96-93 late in the fourth quarter. Then, as they did all night, the Magic had an answer. This time it was Hedo Turkoglu, who scored on a drive down the left side, and then hit a three on the next possession to restore a 101-93 lead. The Blazers weren't dead yet. They made it a one-possession game again, at 102-99. But again, the Magic stood strong, and closed out the game.
While it's true that Portland was playing the second of a back to back, I don't think that was a huge factor in this game. I do think Orlando having two and a-half days off was a big factor. Portland didn't look that tired, but they weren't terribly sharp out of the chute. The Magic were hitting on all cylinders from the jump.
So, call me crazy to actually take a big positive out of this game, but I think that's the case here. You're going to have to play your absolute best to beat the Blazers at home this season. Orlando just happened to do that. It was the win of their young season so far, and certainly their best performance.
This won't make our flight to San Antonio seem any shorter on Thursday morning. We kick off a 6-game, 10-day trip on Friday night against the Spurs. The trip gets tough, and stays tough. It's the Spurs, Rockets, Hornets, Hawks, Raptors, and Pacers. Then, after getting back home, it's one day off, and then a back-to-back-to-back set. No time to pout, and think too much about one game.
Talk to you from Texas.