Orlando Magic @ Portland Trail Blazers

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The Orlando Magic have lost seven of their last nine road games after starting 10-2 on the road this season. The Magic, who were 27-14 on the road last season, will look to get back on track when they travel to Portland to take on the Trail Blazers on Friday night. The Magic were blown out by the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday while the Blazers put together one of their best performances of the season in a 120-108 win over the Milwaukee Bucks.

Portland, even without former top pick Greg Oden, is having a good season. They have a record of 24-16. The Magic, who are 26-13 overall, have fallen to 12-9 on the road. The Blazers are 15-7 at home. Orlando defeated Portland 92-83 on December 19th. Since then, Orlando is just 6-6 and Portland is 8-4.

Tip-off from the Rose Garden is set for 10:30 pm EST and the game will be shown by FSN. Luckily, the game will also be shown nationally on ESPN, so you out-of-towners without league pass can still watch the game. As always, if you can’t watch the game, you can hear it locally on WDBO 580 AM and in Spanish on WONQ AM 1030.

Starters:

Orlando

Dwight Howard
Rashard Lewis
Matt Barnes
Vince Carter
Jameer Nelson

Portland

Juwan Howard
LaMarcus Aldridge
Martell Webster
Jerryd Bayless
Andre Miller

As mentioned earlier, Brandon Roy is questionable for the game with an injured hamstring.

Shooting Guard Rudy Fernandez, who hadn’t played since December 5th, returned on Wednesday and could help to fill Roy’s void should he not play.

Update: Blazers Edge talked to LaMarcus Aldridge at Thursday’s practice and Aldridge expects Roy to play.

"I think he’ll play, I haven’t even seen him sit out any games if he could possibly go so I don’t really think he’s not playing. The only way I’d think that is if he said he’s not playing. I think as of now he’s playing."

Update (9:23 pm EST): Per John Hollinger, Brandon Roy will not play tonight.

Joe Freeman of the Oregonian reports that Roy is officially out and that Jerryd Bayless will start in his place.

The Magic will also likely be without their starting Shooting Guard Vince Carter, who has missed the last three games with a shoulder sprain.

Update: Vince Carter will play against the Blazers on Friday night.

The Blazers, like the Magic, have had some injury problems, but Portland’s have been more severe. After losing Greg Oden for the season, backup Center Joel Przybilla went down for the season as well, leaving Portland with no true Center.

These two teams have met once this season with the Magic winning 92-83 on December 19th. The Magic used Dwight Howard’s 20 rebounds and a balanced offensive attack – eight players scored at least 7 points and all 10 players scored.

Portland’s offense has not scored a lot of points this season (they score 97.7 points per game), but they are the league’s seventh most efficient offensive team. The Blazers have made some real strides in the past month. The last time they met the Magic, the Blazers were averaging 96.7 points per game and were 11th in efficiency.

The offense starts with superstar Brandon Roy, who averages 23.4 points per game on 48.3% shooting. As I mentioned earlier, Roy averages 24.3 points per game against the Magic in his career, the most he averages against any team.

LaMarcus Aldridge has not turned the corner and become a superstar like many analysts think he has the potential to do, but he is a very solid play. Aldridge is averaging 15.9 points per game on 49.8% shooting is currently the Blazers’ leading rebounder averaging 7.9 per game.

Last season, Roy and Aldridge loved to run the pick-and-roll together and for the most part, they ran it well. The Magic do a very poor job of defending the pick-and-roll so if Roy can go, the Magic could be in trouble. Dwight Howard and Orlando’s big men have done a good job of defending the pick-and-roll so it will be up to Orlando’s perimeter defenders to slow it down.

Although Portland’s offense has improved, their defense has been playing worse. Portland gives up 94.4 points per game and ranks16th in defensive efficiency. Portland has been an excellent rebounding team, ranking fourth in rebounding rate (51.7%). The Blazers also outrebound their opponents by 2.8 rebounds per game, but without a true Center, Howard and the Magic should be able to get their share of rebounds.

To win this game, the Magic must come out with energy and have Dwight Howard dominate the paint, which he should be able to do.

(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger and a contributor at NFL Mocks Subscribe to his RSS feed and add him on Twitter to follow him daily.)