Magic Come Up Short Against Blazers Despite Spirited Effort

by Josh Cohen

The Lead

The remainder of the season for the Orlando Magic will be all about player development and building the right habits as they embark on a brand new era in franchise history after making three significant deals at the trade deadline. Someone who certainly appears ready to take that next step in his development is Chuma Okeke, who scored a career-best 22 points in Friday’s 112-105 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night at Amway Center.

Top Performers

Okeke was on an impressive shooting streak before finally missing an attempt midway through the second quarter of Friday’s game. He had made 10 straight shots going back to Wednesday’s contest against Phoenix. The 6-foot-8, 230-pounder, who will be getting significant playing time the rest of the season with Aaron Gordon now in Denver and Al-Farouq Aminu in Chicago, knocked down nine of his 15 attempts overall and four of his six 3-point tries against Portland. Khem Birch, meanwhile, was solid across the board with 14 points, a career-best 15 rebounds and four assists.

The Sidebar

None of the players acquired on Thursday by the Magic were available for Friday’s game. The hope is for Wendell Carter Jr., R.J. Hampton and Otto Porter Jr. to be cleared to play starting Sunday when the Magic visit the Lakers. Gary Harris, the other player Orlando attained, is recovering from a thigh injury. Only eight players stepped on the floor for the Magic during Friday’s game.

Key Stretch

Tied at 94 following a James Ennis III 3-pointer with 6:31 left in the fourth quarter, the Blazers scored seven unanswered points to reclaim momentum. C.J. McCollum, who finished with 22 points, drilled a 3-pointer, Enes Kanter made a layup and Robert Covington slammed home a putback dunk in that stretch.

Clutch Moments

The biggest shot of the night came shortly after when Covington, with his team up just four, buried one of his three 3-pointers from the top of the key with 3:01 left. The dagger came with 39.9 ticks remaining when McCollum hit a floater.

Rivals Report

The Blazers made their prized trade acquisition available against the Magic. Norman Powell, sent to Portland from Toronto for Gary Trent Jr. and Rodney Hood at the deadline, started in his Blazers debut. He was terrific, too, scoring 22 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the field and 5-for-7 from beyond the arc. MVP candidate Damian Lillard did not play because of a left knee contusion.

Quote of the Night

“I think my reaction being with a new team is a fresh start. Coming to the Magic organization, (who are) kind of in a rebuilding process, a lot of young guys, a lot of young talent and I think I am one of those guys that can contribute to the Magic, not only this year but for years to come.” – Hampton, a 6-foot-4 combo guard known for his speed, versatility and two-way potential.

Up Next

The Magic will now head out West for a five-game road trip, starting in Los Angeles for a clash with the Lakers on Sunday at 10 p.m. Ever since LeBron James suffered a high ankle sprain several games ago, the Lakers have been in a tailspin. They entered Friday’s game against the Cavs on a four-game losing skid. Also still out for L.A. is Anthony Davis, who hasn’t played since Feb. 14 because of a calf injury.

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