The Portland Trail Blazers (26-9) are back home tonight to host the Orlando Magic (10-24). The Blazers are on another rare losing streak after they lost last night in Sacramento to the Kings (123-119). The Orlando Magic will be without their top interior scorer, Nikola Vucevic, who is suffering from a concussion. After getting exploited by DeMarcus Cousins in the paint last night, the Blazers might be lucky Vucevic is out.
The Trail Blazers have lost five of their last seven games. The Moda Center was their good luck charm early in the season but they have lost two of their last three home games. So what has happened? Is this team not as good as everyone thought? Or is it just the dreadful NBA grind where, eventually, each team has a rough patch? I think it’s a little of both. What we do know is that the Blazers will face a Magic team that is desperate for a win. The Magic have not beaten a Western Conference team since November 6th (Clippers) and are on a five game losing streak.
Arron Afflalo is the spark for the Magic. He is averaging 20.9 points a game this season, yet is only averaging 13.8 points during their current losing streak. The last time the Magic visited the Rose City (almost a year to date), Afflalo scored 24 points and the Magic almost won before falling in overtime. In order to avoid a three game losing streak, the Blazers must focus on keeping Arron Afflalo and Jameer Nelson from running up the score.
Portland Trail Blazers:
- Nicolas Batum (finger) is still listed as day-t0-day, even though we know he will play with a cast on his finger.
- Nikola Vucevic (concussion) will be out after taking a hard fall on Monday against the Clippers.
- Former Trail Blazer Ronny Price (illness) is listed as day-to-day.
Keys To The Game
Damian Lillard vs. Jameer Nelson. Lillard was unstoppable last night. In my preview before yesterday’s match-up, I mentioned that the last time Lillard was in Sacramento, he shot 1-15 from the field. I predicted he would use that as motivation and have a big game. He must have read my article. He went absolutely bonkers on the Kings. He had 26 points in the fourth quarter and finished with a career-high 41 points. Jameer Nelson has been around the block a time or two. That’s why this match-up is so intriguing to me. I love it when a young, up-and-coming player faces off with a wily veteran. Nelson is only averaging 12.7 points per game but can go off at any moment. Let’s see how he defends Lillard and if Dame can keep him in check.
Nicolas Batum. Last night Batum played in his first game since fracturing his left middle finger. The finger cast didn’t seem to bother him at all. The Blazers have to be very excited that he is able to play through this. But, it will be interesting to see what happens if that finger gets tweaked or hit. Batum put up 11 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 assists last night in 39 minutes. If he can avoid contact and protect that finger, I think we will continue to see his normal balanced performance.