PORTLAND — This game story.
Will appear in.
Sets of three.
It’s about Orlando.
And its shooting.
From long distance.
OK, you get the point. But the Magic got a lot more points — defeating the Blazers 107-104 Wednesday with darn-near immaculate precision from outside.
“They hit everything they threw up,” said Blazers coach Nate McMillan, who watched Orlando make 16 of 27 attempts from 3-point range. “They knocked down every mistake we made.”
Even so, late in the game, it looked as though Portland (7-3) was going to render the Magic’s collective hot hand irrelevant. Down by 23 midway through the third, and 20 early in the fourth, the Blazers staged two charges that cut the lead to as little as two.
The first came in the form of a 23-6 run that LaMarcus Aldridge capped with a 20-foot jumper to bring Portland within three points with 2:52 remaining. But a layup and a 3-pointer by Hedo Turkoglu put Orlando up eight and the game seemingly out of reach.
The Blazers scored six points in a 20-second span to make the score 102-99 with 32 seconds remaining. However, Portland forward
Nicolas Batum fouled Jason Richardson within four seconds, allowing the Magic to go up by two possessions as Richardson hit 1 of 2 from the line (McMillan said the plan was to trap, not foul.)
Blazers guard Jamal Crawford scored on a layup eight seconds later to make it a two-point contest, but four consecutive free throws from J.J. Redick iced the game for Orlando and sent the Blazers on a six-game road trip with the thought of what could have been.
“It’s tough. That’s tough because you’re so emotionally in the game when you come back from 20 in the fourth,” said Crawford, who scored a game-high 24 points in 29 minutes as his team fell to 6-1 at home. “To get it to three and lose the game is tough.”
The fact that Portland was even in the game was borderline miraculous.
The Magic (7-3) came into the game with an NBA-high 83 3-pointers made, and were hitting them at a .379 clip. At one point Wednesday, they had knocked down 14 of 21, which translates to 66.7 percent.
Few will dispute the proficiency of Orlando’s deep threats, but its success against the Blazers had more to do with simply squaring up and following through.
“I thought our ball movement was the best it had been early in the year. Our energy and ball movement was outstanding,” said Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, whose team saw seven players reach double-digit scoring. “I was really, really, happy with what we did.”
Portland’s early strategy in limiting 3-point attempts appeared to be giving Orlando wide-open layups.
The Magic took an 8-0 lead two minutes into the game via four shots from no farther than 2 feet. The Blazers never seemed to recover until the fourth quarter.
Aldridge posted 23 points on 10-of-17 shooting, while Wesley Matthews scored 17. Gerald Wallace added 15 points for Portland, and Batum contributed 14.
Redick was Orlando’s leading scorer with 17 points. Turkoglu, Ryan Anderson and Jameer Nelson each added 16, while Dwight Howard put up 13 points and 13 rebounds.
The Blazers will play six road games nine days, starting Friday at San Antonio and ending Jan. 21 at Detroit.
Mills gets ovation
Former Blazers point guard Patty Mills made an appearance at the Rose Garden Wednesday and received a hearty ovation from fans when his image appeared on the jumbotron. The Australia native averaged 5.5 points for Portland last year, but signed a $1 million deal with a team in China over the offseason.
Mills was recently cut from the team after suffering a hamstring injury — the legitimacy of which was questioned in China — but is still bound to the Chinese league through March. Currently, he is trying to get out of the contract and return to the NBA — preferably as a Blazer.
“I’d love to be back here,” said Mills, who hopes to be healthy in three weeks. “I don’t know what the chances are, but I’m really close to the guys, and this felt like home when I got off the plane.”
Mills was the mastermind behind the “3 Goggles” last year, a gesture in which Blazers would make A-OK signs over their eyes after making a 3-pointer. It blossomed into a local phenomenon.
Blazer players retired the goggles this year, seeing as how Mills was no longer with the team, but Matthews brought them out again Wednesday as tribute to his former teammate.
Matt Calkins can be contacted at 360-735-4528 or firstname.lastname@example.org