After a first quarter that saw Dwight Howard (18) outscore the Portland Trail Blazers by himself and lead the Magic to a 22-14 lead at the end of the quarter, the Blazers took over the game. The Blazers were very active on the defensive end and cut Orlando’s lead to one before the end of the first half. They took the lead in the third quarter and never looked back. Andre Miller led the Blazers with 22 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds and 2 steals while Wesley Matthews poured in 20 points. Dwight Howard led the Magic with a season-high 39 points. He also added 15 rebounds and 3 blocks.
Dwight Howard was absolutely fantastic and looked like a guy who could definitely be the NBA MVP this year. Howard had everything going on the offensive end, especially in the first quarter. He was hitting jumpers, looking great on his running hook and of course, finishing with authority. He shot 13-of-20 from the field and got off to a hot start from the free throw line. He cooled off a little bit but still shot 13-of-18 from the charity stripe, which is fantastic for Howard. He also managed to pull down 15 boards and block 3 shots.
It seemed like the Blazers didn’t mind Howard’s big number and often played him one-on-one. Instead of focusing on Howard, the Blazers decided to limit Howard’s teammates and it worked perfectly. No one could get into any kind of flow for the Magic and the rest of the team wound up shooting 17-of-51(33.3%). They were also 6-of-22 from downtown (27.3%). Orlando’s backcourt of Jameer Nelson and Vince Carter scored 16 points on a combined 6-of-26 shooting (23.1%). Nelson couldn’t get into a rhythm and just looked out of sync, which probably should have been expected after his battle with the flu.
The Magic didn’t get much out of the 4 spot. Rashard Lewis continued to disappoint with 11 points on 4-of-10 shooting while Brandon Bass had 2 rebounds, 2 turnovers, and 4 fouls in just 12 minutes while not even attempting a shot. It looked like nothing like the Bass we’ve seen this season. He couldn’t catch simple passes and had his worst game of the year.
J.J. Redick scored 10 points off the bench but Mickael Pietrus’ 5 and Chris Duhon’s 2 was all Orlando got.
Portland also had every active hands on the defensive end. They forced 16 turnovers, recorded 10 steals and deflected several more passes. The Magic didn’t have great ball movement and again, made some lazy passes, which they just couldn’t afford to do.
Defensively, the Magic weren’t much better. Sure, the Blazers were just 36-of-81 from the field and only 5-of-15 from beyond the arc. The Magic really struggled on their rotations and were burned by the brilliant passing and decision making of Miller. The Magic attempted a zone in the second half but the Blazers countered with Rudy Fernandez, who made a couple of threes and was open for even more. They also used great cuts to the basket and found guys wide open at the hoop.
Next Up: The Magic will immediately head to Salt Lake City to face the Jazz Friday night.
Final Thought: Three straight losses for the Magic is tough and it will be tough to turn it around against one of the better teams in the NBA.
(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger, co-host of CB Sports Radio from 5-7 pm week days (1420sports.com) and ESPN 1080′s Magic Insider (http://espn1080.com). Subscribe to his RSS feed, add him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter to follow him daily. You can download the HTD app here).
Tags: Andre Miller Brandon Bass Brandon Roy Chris Duhon Dwight Howard J.j. Redick Jameer Nelson Lamarcus Aldridge Marcus Camby Orlando Magic Portland Trail Blazers Rashard Lewis Vince Carter Wesley Matthews