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Field Level Media - Professional sports content solutions | FLM

Mar 31, 2024 3:52 pm

Magic, buoyed by stout defense, take on depleted Blazers

magic wendell carter

The Orlando Magic have hit the home stretch of the regular season vying for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, as they host the struggling Portland Trail Blazers on Monday.

Orlando (43-31) snapped a three-game losing skid on Saturday with a 118-88 rout of Memphis. The blowout win came on the heels of three close losses, including a 100-97 defeat on Friday against the Los Angeles Clippers.

“(Moritz Wagner) talked about it the other day in his interview: the standard and the way in which we play,” Magic coach Jamahl Mosley said following Saturday’s win. “Just because it doesn’t come out in the winning end doesn’t mean you’re not playing good basketball. So you stick with that process.”

For Orlando, the process behind its success in the push for the postseason has started with stout defense.

The Magic rank third in the NBA in scoring defense at 108.3 points allowed per game, with Saturday’s 88-point yield marking Orlando’s lowest since holding Brooklyn to 81 points on Feb. 27.

The Magic are 19-2 when holding opponents to 99 points or fewer this season. One of those wins came in Orlando’s previous matchup with Portland, a 102-97 victory on Oct. 27.

More recently, the Blazers have scored fewer than 100 points in four of their losses over a skid dropping 10-of-11, including nine straight. Portland’s last loss in the streak came Friday in a 142-82 rout at Miami.

The Blazers (19-55) were without a host of primary contributors in what was the third-most lopsided loss in franchise history. Season-long scoring leader Anfernee Simons (22.6 points per game) missed his fourth consecutive game due to a knee injury.

Jerami Grant, averaging 21 points per game, has not played since March 11 due to a hamstring injury. Malcolm Brogdon, Shaedon Sharpe and Toumani Camara were also among the Blazers absent for Friday’s loss.

Rookie Scoot Henderson was a bright spot, scoring in double-figures for the ninth consecutive game with 20 points — his third game of at least 20 in the last five. He also dished at least six assists for the sixth time in 11 outings.

Deandre Ayton also returned to the lineup after a four-game absence to score 18 points and grab eight rebounds. Ayton had a run of five double-doubles in seven games before his stint on the bench, scoring at least 22 points and grabbing at least 14 rebounds in each.

“We was happy to have him. DA was his normal, efficient self,” Portland coach Chauncey Billups said. “He’s very efficient, he’s good on the glass, too. Pretty sure he felt good just getting back out there.”

Orlando heads into Monday’s meeting with what figures to be a heavily depleted Blazers lineup having had the opportunity to play a variety of contributors significant minutes on Saturday.

Of the three Orlando scorers tying for a team-high 15 points against Memphis, Wendell Carter Jr.’s output combined with his 13 rebounds marked his first double-double since March 10. Jalen Suggs, who also notched 15 points, was in double-figures for the seventh time in nine games.

Guard Cole Anthony also contributed 15 points off the bench.

–Field Level Media

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