Originally written February 09, 2013 on NorthWest Sports Beat:
Road trip continues The Portland Trail Blazers are 1-2 half way through their six-game road tip, and the Orlando Magic should provide for a good warm-up before Rip City takes on the Miami Heat Tuesday night. Matchup: Portland (25-25) @ Orlando Magic (14-36) Venue: Amway Center Time: 3:00 PM PT Date: Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013 No team in the NBA can be considered a throwaway, but the Magic are near the bottom of the league for a reason. The Magic are just 2-15 since the last time they played Portland. (Photo: Don Ryan/AP) Game Notes/How They Match Up The Blazers and the Magic are headed in different directions. Portland is trying its hardest to make the postseason, while the Magic are simply hoping to strike gold in the lottery this summer. Since the last time these two teams faced off, the Blazers have gone 7-10. That’s nothing to brag about, but when you compare it to the 2-15 record of the Magic, it’s clear that these teams are simply on different levels. Both teams are coming off of high-scoring losses, which is indicative of their struggling defenses. Neither team has proven to have an elite offense, but a lot of points could be scored in this one if the defenses don’t show up. What to Watch: Portland The last time the Blazers played the Magic, they scored 60 points in the paint. That’s a strong mark for any team, but it’s especially impressive for a Portland squad that goes through serious cold spells when it comes to scoring down low. The Magic aren’t good at defending the paint, and the Blazers have to take advantage. Whether it be in half-court or fast-break situations, the Blazers can’t settle for jumpers against this group. Orlando will give you open jump shots, but you have to stay disciplined and not take the easy way out. LaMarcus Aldridge will be the No. 1 option when it comes to low-post scoring, but the slashing natures of Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum should be able to take full advantage above the rim. What to Watch: Orlando The Orlando Magic are the not-so-proud owners of the league’s longest losing streak. They’ve lost 12 straight contests, and they’re making a strong push for the No. 1 spot in the post-season draft lottery. According to 82games.com, J.J. Redick has the highest simple rating of anybody on the Orlando roster. There’s no true science to determining a team’s best player, but there’s also no denying that Redick was the most productive player on the team the last time they played Portland. Redick went for 29 points and five assists on Jan. 7, and he did it in efficient fashion. His 11-of-17 shooting is even more impressive when you see he was 6-of-10 from behind the arc, and he was the only player on the Magic who finished with a positive number in the plus-minus category. Nikola Vucevic will challenge J.J. Hickson come Sunday. (Photo: Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY) Redick is questionable heading into Sunday’s game, and it will be interesting to see where Orlando finds its points if the guard is unable to play. Key Matchup Although it won’t be the sexiest matchup Sunday night, the battle on the block between J.J. Hickson and Nikola Vucevic will help decide the game when it’s all said and done. Vucevic is coming off a 25-point, 13-rebound performance against the Cleveland Cavaliers. He’s been on a roll as of late, and he’s going to be a tough assignment for J.J. Hickson come Sunday. The positive sign for Portland is that Hickson can be just as effective. We’ve seen him challenge bigger players all year, and Vucevic isn’t going to scare him at any point in this contest. Injury Report Portland: DAY-TO-DAY—Ronnie Price Orlando: OUT—Glen Davis, DAY-TO-DAY—Hedo Turkoglu, J.J. Redick Prediction Portland has been a much better team than Orlando this season, and even though the road has been a tough place to win, the Blazers should emerge victorious against a team that is struggling to find its identity in the post-Dwight Howard era. Blazers 105 – Magic 93 CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE BLAZERS BLOG IN OUR CLUBHOUSE TODAY AT NWSB!
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