Orlando Magic at Portland Trail Blazers (Feb. 9, 2021): 3 Things To Watch, Odds and Prediction

Orlando Magic guard Terrence Ross has established himself as one of the best sixth men in the league. (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)
Orlando Magic guard Terrence Ross has established himself as one of the best sixth men in the league. (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic begin a four-game West Coast road trip with a tough visit to Moda Center to take on Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers.

Orlando Magic (9-15) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (12-10)


10 p.m./FOX Sports Florida




No Tickets Available on StubHub

2021 Season Series:

Tonight in Portland

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OMD Prediction

There are certain players who just torture the Orlando Magic and the way they defend. They just know how to exploit and hurt the team’s scheme. When fans express their disgust of the Magic’s usual drop coverages, they will likely point to how Damian Lillard just steps into jumpers against a backpedaling Nikola Vucevic. Orlando is dropping a lot less this year, but the last few games have seen them return to this defensive strategy in an attempt to limit the paint. It is . . . not really working.

Lillard is going to be the focus again — he missed practice Monday with an abdominal strain, but he is not listed on the team’s injury report. Right now, he is the engine for the Portland Trail Blazers’ offense. They have surrounded him with shooters and they have quickly become a team that can and will outscore you. The Magic’s defense has to be on point and they have to make shots and move the ball to break a defense that does not have a lot of size and produces a lot of holes.

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3 Keys To Watch

3-Point Shooting

It is really reductive to say the game will come down to who will make shots. But with the struggles both teams can have defensively. . . this game will come down to who can hit 3-pointers. And that is obviously an advantage for the Portland Trail Blazers. Portland makes the second-most 3-pointers in the league with 18.0 per game and makes 38.0-percent of them (the seventh-best mark in the league). Portland takes the most threes in the league (42.0 per game) and makes them efficiently.

The Magic are not a 3-point shooting team. They are 23rd in attempts with 32.0 per game and 25th in makes at 11.1 per game. They have the fourth-worst 3-point field goal percentage in the league (34.6-percent). The Magic are a low-volume, low-efficiency 3-point shooting team. And their defense is also relatively poor — giving up 12.9 3-point field goals per game (in the middle of the league) and 37.1-percent shooting (also in the middle of the league).

Ball Control

The big focus for the Orlando Magic throughout the season has been ball control. The team has struggled to keep ball handlers from wreaking havoc in the paint and getting where they want on the interior of the defense. This has been something the Magic have been really good at under Steve Clifford. But it has fallen apart this year. The Magic are giving up 48.5 points in the paint per game, 23rd in the league.

The Portland Trail Blazers’ attack is all about the 3-point shot. The Blazers score the fewest points in the paint per game (37.3) in the league. They do not even work inside-out particularly. The Blazers have the fewest drives in the league at 30.7 per game according to NBA.com’s tracking statistics and just 18.6 paint touches per game (the Magic have 21.7 per game). The Magic have to keep the Blazers from the paint to prevent easier kickouts.

Inside Game

On this note then, the Orlando Magic should have a massive advantage on the inside with Nikola Vucevic. And one of the things that will develop in the next few weeks is how Vucevic handles the attention defenses are going to give him. The Chicago Bulls came with hard doubles against him to get the ball out of his hands in both games. He was able to establish deep post position to beat those doubles before they came in Friday’s win. Execution is going to be key to giving Vucevic those easy looks to pace the Magic.

Next. Orlando Magic must still grow to make Lottery trip temporary. dark

Enes Kanter is not known as a great defender. But he is game to put in some effort and help defend the glass. The Blazers can hide their coverages and give Kanter the initial move before bringing doubles. Vucevic has to win this matchup and win it big to give the Magic a chance. But everyone else has to do their jobs too. Cole Anthony was great at attacking the paint and drawing the defense in to spring Nikola Vucevic for his open jumpers. This is the simple formula for the Magic and what they have to be better at.