Paolo Banchero recorded 26 points, Franz Wagner scored 24, and Markelle Fultz, Jalen Suggs and Moe Wagner each had 15, but the Orlando Magic came up a tad short in Sunday’s 122-119 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers at Amway Center.
Markelle Fultz tied it up at 113 with a coast-to-coast transition layup with 58.8 seconds left. On Portland’s ensuing possession, Nassir Little drilled a 3-pointer from the right wing with 35 seconds remaining off a kickout pass from Jerami Grant to put the Blazers up three. A free throw shooting contest arose from there. While the Magic made all six of their attempts from the stripe, the Blazers also didn’t miss, as Grant hit two and Damian Lillard made four, including a pair with 4.1 seconds left. The Magic empty of timeouts, Banchero missed a potential game-tying half-court heave at the buzzer.
Although the Magic fought back to tie it late, the Blazers originally seized momentum late in the third quarter with a 9-1 run. Lillard, who finished with 41 points, drilled two of his four 3-pointers during that stretch and rookie Shaedon Sharpe also buried one from beyond the arc in that time.
The Magic outscored the Blazers in the paint by 12 and they had 12 more fast break points. Portland, meanwhile, made five more threes than Orlando and outrebounded them by eight.
Wendell Carter Jr. (left hip soreness), Gary Harris (left adductor soreness) and Jonathan Isaac (torn left adductor) were out for the Magic. Admiral Schofield exited Sunday’s game with a concussion. Jusuf Nurkic (calf), Anfernee Simons (ankle), Justise Winslow (ankle), Ryan Arcidiacono (back), and Ibou Badji (knee) were unavailable for the Blazers.
This Day in History
One of the Magic’s most thrilling victories from their 1994-95 season came against the Atlanta Hawks on March 5 of that year. Shaquille O’Neal led Orlando with 30 points, Penny Hardaway scored 23, Nick Anderson had 21, and Dennis Scott finished with 20, as the Magic edged the Hawks in overtime. Steve Smith led Atlanta with 23 points.
Entering the year, and even early in the season when they started 10-4, it seemed the Blazers would have a bounce-back year, make the playoffs, and even be a threat to knock off any of the top-tier teams in the West in a seven-game series. But instead, they will require a strong finish just to make the play-in tournament. The problem has been their defense. They have the fourth worst defensive rating. Still, Damian Lillard is having an outstanding season – arguably the best of his career, as he’s third in scoring in the league behind Luka Doncic and Joel Embiid.
The Magic’s four-game homestand continues Tuesday when they welcome the Milwaukee Bucks to town for a 7 p.m. tipoff. This will be the third and final meeting between the two teams this season. The Bucks won the first two, including the one played last week in Milwaukee. Giannis Antetokounmpo recorded 31 points in that victory and the Bucks made 26 3-pointers, tied for the most ever made in a game against the Magic. Cole Anthony led Orlando with 28 points.