Blazers singing their song loud

Portland dispatches Orlando 121-84

By Erik Gundersen, Columbian Trail Blazers Writer



PORTLAND — If the Blazers were upset about their 16-point loss to the Golden State Warriors on Friday, they did a bad job of showing it.

Before going out to warm-ups, Damian Lillard was singing along to the tune of Drake’s “Hotline Bling,” and the feeling around the team was upbeat, because why not? Things were still pretty good for the team sitting in sixth place in the West.

Channeling that feeling, the Blazers took care of business Saturday, forcing the Orlando Magic to sing a much sadder song, 121-84, behind 19 points and 10 assists from Lillard.

The 37-point win was Portland’s biggest margin of victory this season and they led by as many as 41.

“I liked our demeanor because this was like Washington (Tuesday),” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said about his team. “We’re on the road a bunch this month. These games are that much more important.”

The mood of the team could be seen in Lillard before the game or in Allen Crabbe earlier this week.

When asked about his dip in shooting efficiency and usage earlier in the week, he slightly raised his eyebrows and chalked it up to “it is what it is,” with his trademark cool.

The “Cool Breeze” finally blew its way through the Moda Center on Saturday, as Crabbe finally started to make the shots he had been missing for several weeks.

Crabbe’s 18 points on the night were the most he had in a game since he scored 13 points vs. Memphis on Feb. 8.

The Blazers have managed the ups and downs of the season pretty well.

Saturday night’s quick work of a beleaguered Magic team showed similar resolve and discipline they’ve had all season, which seems out of step with a team this young.

“Coming off a tough loss against Golden State and going out on the road, we know the importance of this game in particular,” Stotts said. “Games are getting fewer so each game means a little bit more and I think we have a good approach to it.”

The Magic started off the game stronger starting the game on an 11-3 run before the Blazers got it together thanks to the play of CJ McCollum.

Elfrid Payton was out due to an elbow injury and that thrust veteran guard CJ Watson into the starting line-up and into a tough match-up with McCollum.

McCollum had nine first quarter points as Lillard, likely seeing the ease with which McCollum was scoring, force-fed his backcourt mate while taking a backseat in the offense after a rough shooting game Friday.

“He got a few shots coming off flares and pin downs, they were losing him,” Lillard said of McCollum. “So I kept hitting him because he was open and making shots. And I saw that our ball movement, off ball things, flares and pin downs, back screens was what gave them trouble. All the plays that we called I tried to stick to that. We separated ourselves from them by doing that.”

McCollum had 18 points, 11 of them coming in the first half.

It was not until the third quarter that Lillard was looking to score, scoring 14 of his 19 points on 6-of-11 shooting.

The only time the Blazers didn’t look like they were having a good time was when Lillard voiced his displeasure with a screen by Orlando’s Jason Smith.

Lillard walked right up to Smith who has nearly a foot on him and chewed him out on the court.

Minutes later, when Jason Smith was driving to the rim, Ed Davis hit him with both arms and caught him across the face.

It was an unmistakable message: Don’t mess with our leader.

Refs reviewed the foul, giving Davis a flagrant two and an ejection with 2:42 left in the third quarter.

After the game, both Lillard and Davis downplayed the incident and Lillard said he and Smith talked it out after the game.

“He said he didn’t mean anything and I said I just got caught up in the moment and that was that,” Lillard said of his post-game exchange with Smith.

Injuries and trades have allowed the Magic to play their young players more, including slam dunk extraordinaire Aaron Gordon.

Gordon came to life in the second quarter after a scoreless first and finished with 17 points, but things only got worse for the Magic, who also played on Friday in Sacramento.

The Magic were without guards Brandon Jennings (Achilles) and Elfrid Payton (elbow).

The Blazers turned Orlando’s defense into a lay-up line, finishing with 63 points at halftime, just two more than they had at half on Friday night.

But rather than trail by 20 points as they did in Golden State, they led by 21.

The trends of the first half continued: The Magic didn’t have it and the Blazers took advantage of every opening.

Portland out-rebounded Orlando 51-39.

With the win, the Blazers now hold a one-game lead over the Houston Rockets for the sixth seed in the West.