Wednesday, March 26, 2014
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Orlando Tops Portland, Continues Home Magic

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[March 26, 2014]  ORLANDO, Fla.  Most NBA teams play better at home than they do on the road. But rarely is the difference as dramatic as it is with the Orlando Magic this season.

The Magic may be the worst road team (4-34) in the league, but they remain surprisingly competitive at home (16-18), drilling the playoff-bound Portland Trail Blazers 95-85 on Tuesday night at the Amway Center.

"I wish I knew why it was this dramatic," said Magic center Nikola Vucevic, who had 22 points and 10 rebounds. "If we knew, maybe we would be more competitive on the road. But I guess everyone just feels more confident here."

Coming off another awful West Coast trip, with bad losses to the Los Angeles Lakers, Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors, the Magic responded with much-better focus, clearly outplaying the Trail Blazers in the second half.

The Magic are 1-23 on the road since Jan. 1, beating only the lowly Philadelphia 76ers. But at home, they now have beaten the Los Angeles Clippers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Indiana Pacers and Trail Blazers, all teams that could go deep into the playoffs.

"As a young team, we just have to learn how to play the same way on the road as we do at home," said Magic forward Tobias Harris, who had 25 points and 11 rebounds. "It's just that playing on the road is a lot different than playing at home. Just like the way our home crowd gets us going, the same thing happens with the other team's crowd on the road."


The Magic snapped a nine-game losing streak that included six road games with an 11-point average margin of defeat.

"It's about having confidence at home," Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. "It can be overwhelming for a young team on the road when every mistake is amplified. It's just something a young team has to learn how to handle."

While the lottery-bound Magic were celebrating another home-court victory, the Blazers (45-27) were lamenting another wasted opportunity as their late-season struggles continued.

Center Robin Lopez had 20 points and 13 rebounds, but the Blazers lost their third consecutive game. Portland has won only four of its last 13 games, falling farther behind Houston for the No. 4 seed and possible home-court advantage in the first round of the NBA playoffs.

The Blazers, who lost Saturday in Charlotte and Monday in Miami, trailed by as many as 19 points early in the fourth quarter. They made only 32 of 86 shots from the field (37.2 percent) and never led in the second half.

Their once-promising season is slipping away, partially because of the absence of forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who missed his seventh consecutive game with a bruised lower back. He is expected back on Thursday.

"We have to have an urgency," Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. "We have to defend. We have to do the little things to win games. This was an extremely disappointing loss and was a game we needed to have. The playoff race is tight. We'd like to look forward, but we have four teams now that are right on our heels and every game has to have a sense of urgency."

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Trail Blazers guard Wesley Matthews had 18 points and guard Damian Lillard 17. Magic point guard Victor Oladipo had 13 points and six assists. Orlando reserve guard Doron Lamb scored 11 points and guard Arron Afflalo had 10.

The Magic led 79-65 going into the fourth quarter. Harris sparked Orlando in the third quarter, when he made all four of his shots from the field and scored 11 points.

The Magic led 50-42 at halftime, capitalizing on a 16-0 run in the second quarter that was led by Lamb, who hit two 3-point shots. The Blazers led 38-32 before they went cold.

In the first quarter, Lopez hit all five of his shots from the field, leading Portland to a 26-23 advantage.

Vucevic finished the first half with 14 points and six rebounds.

Both teams were sloppy early. The Blazers had nine turnovers and the Magic eight in the first two quarters.

The Blazers were careless in the second half, too, when they fouled Magic shooters twice behind the 3-point line.

NOTES: The Blazers were without All-Star F LaMarcus Aldridge (lower back contusion) for the seventh consecutive game, although he worked out on the court with his teammates before the game. He is expected back Thursday when Portland plays at Atlanta. The Blazers were 3-3 without him before Tuesday. ... The Magic were without PG Jameer Nelson (sore left knee) for the fourth consecutive game. ... Orlando owns the NBA's worst road record (4-34). The franchise mark for fewest road victories is six, set during the inaugural season, 1989-90 . ... As part of the 25th anniversary celebration, the Magic honored former player Grant Hill on Tuesday, even though his time was marked by numerous injuries. Hill spent seven seasons in Orlando but played in only 200 of a possible 574 games. ... The hot-shooting start on Tuesday for Portland C Robin Lopez (5 of 5 from the field in the first quarter) was no surprise. In his previous three games combined, he was 11 of 16 from the floor.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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