The Portland Trail Blazers were able to defeat the Orlando Magic by the score of 89-85, taking advantage of Dwight Howard‘s absence and sweeping the season series in the process. The Magic deserve a ton of credit for playing with energy and effort, knowing that they had to pour everything out on the court if they wanted to come away with a victory. Unfortunately for Orlando, turnovers — 18 of them — did them in as that created wasted possessions in a slow-paced game. The Blazers were led by LaMarcus Aldridge, as he finished with 24 points. Andre Miller chipped in with 15 points, seven assists, four rebounds, and two steals. The Magic were led by a balanced attack, as seven players scored eight points or more — a necessity since there was no Howard to speak of. Jason Richardson paced the way for Orlando, finishing with 22 points on 8-of-13 shooting. Ryan Anderson and Hedo Turkoglu each had 13 points. This was an interesting game because there were times when the Magic clearly missed Howard on the floor, but then there would be stretches in the game when they would be okay. This isn’t to shortchange Howard’s value by any means but speaks more to Orlando’s supporting cast playing as hard as they could, especially the second unit.
Surprisingly enough, the Magic’s defense was relatively fine without Howard. And that’s worth noting, given that Portland ranks 13th in offensive efficiency. Sure, there were breakdowns defensively and there were times when the Blazers had a lot of open looks from the three-point line. But for the most part, Orlando hustled and made Portland work hard for nearly every shot. The only player that had his way with the Magic was Aldridge, given that he was nearly unstoppable in pick and pops as well as the high and low posts. In a vacuum, that’s where Howard’s presence could have been felt on defense but he wasn’t there to stop Aldridge, so that’s the only thing that can be said about that.
It’s on offense where Orlando desperately missed Howard. The Magic had no low post presence to speak of, even though Anderson would try to do battle in the paint on several occasions. As such, Orlando had to rely solely on their perimeter attack to score points and there were stretches when that wasn’t working. It’s no surprise, then, that the Magic trailed for most of the game as they were wildly inconsistent offensively. However, after Orlando went down as many as 13 points, head coach Stan Van Gundy trotted out a 5-man unit of Gilbert Arenas, Richardson, Turkoglu, Anderson, and Earl Clark.
From the 5:52 mark in the third quarter until the 7:22 mark in the fourth quarter, the Magic with that combination (J.J. Redick and Turkoglu would interchange during that timeframe), they were able to turn a 13-point deficit into a one-point lead after two Anderson free-throws.
During that stretch, Richardson was unconscious from the perimeter and making everything he put up. Orlando decided to run Richardson off screens, similar to the types of things the Boston Celtics do with Ray Allen, and he was able to make every shot. Catch-and-shoot threes were Richardson’s weapons of choice, as there was little the Blazers could do from stopping him. Arenas deserves credit, too, for sparking the Magic’s comeback charge, as he was able to get things going not only in the half-court but in transition as well. As a result, Van Gundy made the decision to rely on Arenas for the remainder of the evening as Jameer Nelson watched. Part of that was due to Arenas’ good play but also because he was better suited to defend Miller as opposed to Nelson.
However, because Orlando had to rely on shots from the outside, there was bound to be moments when they weren’t going to connect. That moment came during the rest of the fourth quarter, when Portland — thanks to Aldridge — were able to take control of the game and escape with a hard-fought win.
When push came to shove, the Blazers could give to Aldridge, knowing that he could give them a bucket. For the Magic, with Howard out for the night, they didn’t have a go-to scorer to match.