David Manning/USA TODAY
There were times the Magic looked a bit listless and tired on their West Coast trip. Leads slipped away and margins grew as the frustration of a team hungry for some success simmered. It was bottled up and ready to burst as the team arrived in Orlando on Monday morning from the West Coast trip some time around five in the morning.
As the ball tipped off Tuesday night at Amway Center, you could tell there was energy just ready to creap over and burst through. Either that or a growing sense of fatigue as the team drifts through the final 10 games of the season.
This team is the former and not the latter. Portland, a team drifting its own way, found that out the hard way with each Victor Oladipo cut to the rim, with each Nikola Vucevic post up and each Tobias Harris pull-up jumper.
The ultimate energy play for Orlando came in the second quarter when Oladipo dropped Mo Williams with a crossover and drove in on Robin Lopez to finish a difficult and-1 layup. It was one of several highlights from the rookie who made his impact on the game with his energy, if not his efficiency.
The energy flowed throughout as the Magic avoided a second 10-game losing streak with a 95-85 win over the Blazers at Amway Center on Tuesday night.
Everyone made a contribution with NIkola Vucevic scoring 22 points and grabbing 11 rebounds, including 10 in the first quarter as Orlando established a paint presence early. Tobias Harris had 25 points on 10-for-15 shooting, pulling up for jumpers at will and hitting two of his three 3-point attempts. He also added 11 rebounds.
The Magic made a living in the paint with 46 points in the paint and simply out-executed a struggling Blazers team.
The center of attention was Victor Oladipo who commanded the Magic's offense with some extreme efficiency. His shooting was not efficient at 5 for 13, but his 13 points and six assists each seemed to give the Magic that extra kick they needed to hang on and pull away.
"If you didn't have a stat sheet and you just kind of felt your way through the game, I think you'd say he had an imprint on the determination of this game and the outcome," coach Jacque Vaughn said. "For him, right now where he's at, that's great for him. Sometimes it's going to be energy and effort plays, sometimes its going to be a turnover. Sometimes it's going to be the correct pass. But being able to play through all that and still put your stamp on the game and help your team win is just as important."
Sometimes the numbers do not tell the whole story. Sometimes that feel does.
And this one felt like a dominant, solid win for the Magic. It felt like how things may feel like when all the pieces of the puzzle come together.
In front of a surprisingly robust 17,896 fans — some doing the Wave as the Magic coasted to victory at the end of the game — the Magic put on their best and most complete performance in weeks.
The Blazers shot 37.2 percent from the floor and the Magic raced out to an early lead thanks to fast breaks and timely shooting. The Blazers made their run and took the lead by the end of the quarter, but the tone was set. Orlando raced back out to the lead in the second quarter and withstood seemingly just one more run — a quick 5-0 spurt to start the second half cut the lead to three.
From there the Magic went right back to work with Vucevic on the inside and Harris cutting in and attacking fromt he wings. The Blazers could nto withstand a 10-2 run that put the Magic back up comfortably. The lead never got closer than five points after the midway point of the third quarter.
"It was important for us to start the right way," Vucevic said. "I think we did that, we came out very aggressive. We made a push early on. We played the right way throughout the whole game."
Again, those numbers only tell half the story. Effort and energy tell the other half. The things that are seemingly intangible and hard to quantify. The Blazers even admitted after the game that the Magic were quicker to 50/50 balls and offensive rebounds. The Magic had 16 of those with Harris grabbing six.
Really what you would call a hustle stat was even between the Magic and the Blazers. Orlando and Portland each had 16 offensive rebounds. The Blazers held a 19-18 edge in second chance points. The Magic held a 46-44 edge on points in the paint. Orlando had 14 turnovers to Portland's 15 and each had 14 points of the other's turnovers.
The game was even except for the Blazers' inability to put the ball in the basket. That credit should go to Orlando's defense for forcing 37.2 percent shooting and making Portland work for offense. If it were not for Robin Lopez grabbing nine offensive rebounds and scoring 20 points (10 in the first quarter), this game might have been even more of a rout.
That made the intangible hustle plays and the energy it brought the team even more critical.
"I think going into this game, everybody's focus was do what you can do on that floor individually to help us win the game," Harris said. "Everybody did that tonight and we're going to need to do that every night and it's a collective effort to win games, any type of games, it takes a collective effort from everybody."
The Magic got that collective effort to top the Blazers and snap their losing streak, finding something tangible to be thrilled about and use as a measure of success.
Orlando found a winning formula and put it to good use to earn a much-needed and well-earned win.