Orlando Magic Grades: Portland Trail Blazers 106, Orlando Magic 97

Terrence Ross was finally able to find a rhythm, but his shots and the Orlando Magic's shots would not fall to get the team back into the game. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
Terrence Ross was finally able to find a rhythm, but his shots and the Orlando Magic's shots would not fall to get the team back into the game. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /

97. 38. 106. 34. Final

The undermanned Orlando Magic were unable to contain the Portland Trail Blazers in a 106-97 loss Tuesday night.

The Trail Blazers top scorers came to play. Damian Lillard put up a game-high 36 points with 18 coming in the third quarter. Whenever the Blazers needed a bucket, they went to their All-Star and he delivered.

Then Portland turned to its savvy veteran Carmelo Anthony in the fourth quarter, and he sealed Orlando off, scoring 13 of his season-high 23 points in the final frame.

Orlando never let the game out of reach, trailing by as much as 17 points in the third quarter. But the team never made a run to close the gap either. It was always close enough that the game hung in the balance but never close enough to threaten the Blazers.

Portland was simply too much for Orlando.

Orlando got off to a slow start offensively with Evan Fournier out of the lineup with back spasms. The Magic trailed the Blazers by 12 after the first quarter.

The Magic had to play catch-up the rest of the game.

Orlando pulled within seven in the second quarter due in part to the scrappy play of its bench and the hot shooting of Terrence Ross, who scored 11 of his 22 points. But to end the half, the Magic suffered another blow with Cole Anthony leaving the game with a strained shoulder.

Still, Orlando did not quit. The game seemed to be getting away from them at the seven-minute mark of the third quarter, but Steve Clifford called a timeout and the Magic upped its defense and went on a run.

The Magic displayed a lot of fight. Despite trailing by double-digit points in the fourth quarter, Nikola Vucevic played the entire second half, and Orlando played its starters until the final whistle blew.

But it goes down as another disappointing loss. And one that came at a heavy price.

Orlando Magic. NIKOLA VUCEVIC. A. . C

Nikola Vucevic played hard for the Orlando Magic. The big man was once again was Orlando’s one consistent source of offense. He asked coach Steve Clifford to remain in the game for the entire second half, saying he felt good physically and knew that the team’s offense needed to run through him to have any shot of stealing the win.

Although Vucevic had a slow start with open shots not falling for him early, he was able to turn it around and finish with 27 points and 15 rebounds. Vucevic had a good all-around game. He was dominant in the post, backing down his opponent and getting good looks at the rim.

The only knock on Vucevic’s game used to be his defense but that is no longer the case. The 7-footer played great help defense and protected the paint. Vucevic has the uncanny ability of simply putting his hands up and disrupting the offensive player without picking up fouls. When he was tasked with guarding Enes Kanter tonight, he played him well, rejecting him twice at the rim for his two blocks.

B+. . G/F. Orlando Magic. TERRENCE ROSS

This was Terrence Ross’ best game in a while and he provided the Orlando Magic with a spark off the bench. Ross scored 22 points on 9-for-18 shooting from the field. He had a great first half scoring an efficient 13 points. Ross went one for two from three in the first half and scored in a variety of ways. But in the second half, he got a little too trigger happy with his three-point shot and missed all five of his shots from behind the arc.

Ross gave the Magic some much-needed offense, but he needed to be the Human Torch in the second half and that simply did not happen.  A take away from this game is that Ross needs to attack more off the dribble and not just settle for the outside shot.

Orlando Magic. CHUMA OKEKE. B+. . F

Chuma Okeke only scored two points but had seven rebounds, five assists and three steals to fill up his stat sheet. It was a great all-around game for the rookie.

Chuma Okeke came into the game and gave the Orlando Magic a boost, playing great defense and making the extra pass.  He outplayed the other two power forwards in Al-Farouq Aminu and Gary Clark. He stood up to Carmelo Anthony for much of the night, battling him in the post and making him work inside the arc, at least. Anthony got him a few times on pump fakes as the rookie is still getting used to the NBA game. But it was an energetic and strong showing.

Okeke was very active on the court and is a solid team player, who plays with great awareness and hustle. He should be playing more minutes than Clark who is struggling with his shot at the moment.

INC. . F. Orlando Magic. AL-FAROUQ AMINU

Al-Farouq Aminu was the first power forward off the bench against the Portland Trail Blazers. He looked good coming back after being out for 14 months from his right meniscus surgery.  He was active on the court, cutting to the basket and moving without the ball. He drew a foul but missed his free throws. He grabbed one rebound.

This was not a game that was about his statistics, but just the simple fact of him being on the floor. It was a long journey for him to return from the meniscus tear. This was a good thing to see.

Aminu’s time was limited though. He only played five minutes, missing the second half because of hamstring tightness that Aminu later credited to not having the chance to play a simulated game beforehand. But if he is able to go Thursday night against the Golden State Warriors, he would provide the Magic with some much-needed depth at the forward position.

5th West. PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS. B+. . 13-10

The Portland Trail Blazers played the hot hand all night. In the first half, Gary Trent Jr. was hot and they fed him for 15 points and six assists. Damian Lillard took over in the third to score most of his 36 points. And Carmelo Anthony was the closer with 23 points.

Portland knocked down 18 of 46 threes and that played a part in their victory. But overall, they only shot 38-percent from the field. A lot of teams would have taken its foot off the pedal and let the Magic get back into the game but the Trail Blazers did not. They made timely shots and pulled out the win.

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

The Magic are now 9-16 and 13th in the Eastern Conference. They return to action Thursday against the Golden State Warriors in San Francisco.