Magic running on fumes, falling to Blazers

Don Ryan/AP/Greenwich TimesOrlando could not get stops and could not be stopped. That was the kind of game it was at the Rose Garden.

Several players took turns just carrying the Magic offense and getting the ball moving. Arron Afflalo had his way in the first quarter. Josh McRoberts and J.J. Redick had it going in the second quarter. Redick got it going in the fourth again. Then Jameer Nelson closed things out in the fourth quarter.

If it were not for a Portland offensive onslaught and poor defense from Orlando this could ahve been the kind of offensive game that wakes the team up from its recent losing skid.

Defense does matter though. The Magic gave up 75 percent shooting in the third quarter to let the Trail Blazers back into the game. They then found themselves in a track meet. And that was just not something Orlando was going to win. Not on the road. Not relying on the same five players for the final quarter and overtime with little rest.

The Magic, who needed a Jameer Nelson 3-pointer with about nine seconds left just to force overtime, ran out of gas before the Trail Blazers did. The Blazers raced past the Magic in overtime for a 125-119 victory.

  Score Off. Rtg. eFG% O.Reb.% TO% FTR
Orlando 119 113.4 55.4 15.4 9.0 19.4
Portland 125 121.9 55.3 26.8 7.9 25.5

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Orlando simply could not get much going offensively in overtime. You could see the team was playing a bit tired as J.J. Redick, hot the entire night, airballed a 3-pointer in overtime. Nelson struggled to get his shot going. And Afflalo put the icing on the cake with a turnover that led to a J.J. Hickson runout dunk.

That made it a six-point game and made the mountain feel too high to climb.

The final score belied how well the Magic played offensively. J.J. Redick made 11 of 17 shots, including 6 of 10 3-pointers, for 29 points. He added five assists too. Afflalo had 24 points on 9-for-18 shooting. Jameer Nelson scored 21 points, but hit on only 2 of his 11 3-pointers and 7 of his 21 shots overall. Nelson also recorded 12 assists, breaking the Magic's all-time assist mark with a nice feed to Andrew Nicholson in the first quarter. Nikola Vucevic had 17 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out late in the overtime.

The Magic were scoring. There was no doubt about that. Shooting 49.5 percent from the floor and making 11 3-pointers, the Magic were scoring in bunches. They had 35 assists on 46 field goals. When the Magic got the ball moving, the offense was sublime and the Blazers had no way to stop it.

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In blitzing the pick and roll and guarding the ball handler more aggressively in the third quarter, the Blazers made defense all of a sudden matter, slowing down the Magic's offense enough to get back into the game.

Portland for much of the second half just had it easy on offense. The Blazers shot 75 percent from the floor in the third quarter in making 15 of 20 field goals. From there Portland ran through Orlando's defense shooting 51.1 percent and hitting 21 of 24 free throws.

The Magic just could not get stops.

And that has been the problem throughout this now nine-game losing streak. The defense is inconsistent and the Magic just are not getting stops in any way. Fouls feel up. All five of Portland's starters scored in double figures with LaMarcus Aldridge leading the way with 27 points.

This goes beyond switching the 1/5 pick and roll in crunch time. Orlando just could not rotate out to the 3-point line in time or get offensive rebounds at key moments. The Trail Blazers had an answer as many times as the Magic did.

The issue then became depth. Orlando used the same lineup featuring Jameer Nelson, J.J. Redick, Arron Afflalo, Josh McRoberts and Nikola Vucevic the entire fourth quarter and overtime (until Vucevic fouled out). The squad was clearly dragging at the end of the game.

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It is not an excuse, but Orlando is running out of reasons for their losses and their now longest losing streak since 2004. The effort is there. The will is there. The results are not just there.

Not yet anyway. Jacque Vaughn seems confident this team's time will come again. That might be harder to see in the midst of the losing streak with so many close games going the other way.

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily

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