Trail Blazers Finish Up Homestand By Hosting Much Improved Magic

by Casey Holdahl
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The Portland Trail Blazers (7-6) finish up a six-game homestand by hosting the Orlando Magic (8-6) Wednesday night at the Moda Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Wednesday’s game is Portland’s tenth home game of the year, meaning they will have completed almost 25 percent of their 41-game schedule at the Moda Center just a month into the regular season. The Trail Blazers are just 5-4 at home this season, a mark they’ll need to improve upon if they’re to finish better than their 41-41 record from last season.

And in that regard, few have improved more than the Magic, a team that finished with the fifth-worst record in the NBA last season at 29-53. While they’ve lost four of their last six and two straight, starting the year with wins against the likes of the Cavaliers, Spurs, Pelicans and Grizzlies has given fans in Orlando hope of making the postseason for the first time since 2012.

Much of that success is due to Orlando’s vastly improved three-point shooting. After finishing the 2016-17 season ranked 29th in three-point accuracy at 33 percent, the Magic are shooting 40 percent from long range through 14 games this season, the second-best mark behind the Golden State Warriors. Five Orlando players are shooting better than 40 percent from three, with forward Aaron Gordon leading the way at 52 percent after shooting just 29 percent from deep last year.

“They’re shooting the ball extremely well, they’ve had some quality wins,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “I think they’re second in the league in three-point percentage, Gordon is shooting over 50 percent, Vucevic is over 40 percent. So they’re shooting the ball very well and they’re shooting the three very well. I think that really played in a lot, especially in their early wins.”

Then there’s Nikola Vucevic, who is averaging 17.9 points on 51 percent shooting, 7.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists in 29.8 minutes per game this season. The 7-0 center in his seventh season out of USC have averaged 24.0 points on 58 percent shooting, and 12.0 rebounds in seven career games versus the Trail Blazers.

The Blazers and Magic split the two-game season series last year, which each team winning on their home floor. Portland has defeated Orlando in four of their last five games at the Moda Center.

Wednesday night’s game can be seen locally on NBC Sports Northwest with Kevin Calabro, Lamar Hurd and Brooke Olzendam. Brian Wheeler and Michael Holton will have the radio call on Rip City Radio 620 AM and on all of the stations of the Trail Blazers Radio Network.