Trail Blazers begin homestand against Magic

NBA Basketball

The Portland Trail Blazers went 3-3 on a trip that bounced from Houston to the Midwest and onto the East Coast, ending Saturday with a disappointing 110-99 defeat to the New York Knicks. A seventh road game, originally set for Sunday at Charlotte, already had been postponed after the NBA started working on schedule changes.

“It reminds me of early in the season, we had a four-game road trip, beat the Lakers, beat Golden State, we’re up 2-1 on the road trip and then you lose the last one in a game that you think you can get,” Portland head coach Terry Stotts said.

Damian Lillard scored 29 points in the loss to the Knicks, but it is a 121-105 victory at Philadelphia two days earlier that has the Trail Blazers feeling good about the road ahead.

Portland was missing many of its key contributors against the Eastern Conference-leading 76ers, including Lillard because of an abdomen strain, but managed to craft the upset anyway. Also out were CJ McCollum, Jusuf Nurkic, Derrick Jones Jr. and Zach Collins.

McCollum (foot), Nurkic (wrist) and Collins (ankle) remain out indefinitely, but Portland is not content with biding its time until they are back.

“Obviously we came in here wanting to go home 4-2 (on the trip),” Lillard said after Saturday’s game. “But given the (player availability) circumstances, if we come on this trip and leave splitting it 3-3, we’ll take it. I think that’s the lesson. It’s a little disappointing not to get (Sunday’s game) … so on to the next one.”

That next one Tuesday opens a relatively short three-game run at home before heading out again to play six of seven away from Portland. The Trail Blazers are just 5-5 in their own building, compared to 7-5 away from home.

Lillard leads the Trail Blazers with 29.1 points per game, fifth best in the NBA heading into Monday’s games. McCollum is next on the Trail Blazers with 26.7 per game, but has not played since Jan. 16.

The Magic continue to struggle after an impressive 6-2 start to the season. They have lost five of their last six games and 13 of their last 16. They are 1-7 on the road going back to the start of the New Year.

Orlando will enter off a two-game split at Chicago where they won the first game 123-119 against the Bulls but dropped the rematch 118-92 on Saturday. It was the fifth time the Magic were held to 92 points or less this season.

Nikola Vucevic scored 17 points with eight rebounds Saturday, one day after scoring a career-best 43 against the same team. Orlando shot just 38.9 percent from the field without Evan Fournier (back spasms), Aaron Gordon (ankle) and Jonathan Isaac (knee). Markelle Fultz (knee) already is out for the season.

“It’s a long season (and) we’re going to go through ups and downs,” said Orlando’s Terrence Ross, who had 13 points off the bench Saturday. “Right now, we’re just right in the thick of it. We’re going through a hard time, but it’s not going to last forever. We just have to stick with it.”

–Field Level Media

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