ORLANDO, Fla. – The Orlando Magic got a look at their harsh, new reality a night after trading away the core of their team, losing 112-105 on Friday to a Portland Trail Blazers squad without injured star guard Damian Lillard.
Newly acquired guard Norman Powell scored 22 points and hit five 3-pointers in his Portland debut, and C.J. McCollum had seven of his 22 in the fourth quarter.
“This is what I expected (from Powell) because he knows how to play the game, he plays the way we play, he moves well without the ball, shoots 3s, he’s in shape and he defends,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “I wouldn’t have said he was going to score 22, but I really had a feeling that he was going to play well for us.”
The Magic, who lost for the 12th time in 14 games, had just eight players available after trading franchise fixtures Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon and two others Thursday. Vucevic had been the Magic’s only All-Star since 2012, while Fournier was averaging a career-high 19.7 points and Gordon was less than a week removed from scoring a season-best 38 points against Brooklyn.
Orlando rookie Chuma Okeke scored a career-best 22 points by making 9 of 15 shots and 4 of 6 3-pointers. James Ennis III had 18 points and four 3s, while Dwayne Bacon scored 17 points. Khem Birch chipped in 14 points and 15 rebounds in place of Vucevic.
“To have a chance to play better on Sunday, the (new) guys have to get acclimated and these guys who are playing more minutes made far, far too many basic mistakes,” Magic coach Steve Clifford fumed.
Portland won for a second night in a row and improved to 14-6 this season in back-to-back sets of games. The Blazers are 13-9 on the road. The Blazers made 18 of 40 3s on Friday.
Portland found itself tied at 94 when Ennis sank a 3-pointer with 6:31 to play. However, the Blazers responded by scoring the next seven points. McCollum started that run with a 3-pointer and finished 8 of 26 from the floor.
Said Stotts: “I think we're going in the right direction, we're getting healthy and we added a very good player (in Powell).”
Added Powell: “I think I fit perfectly here and I like how close this team is.”
Lillard, the late-game hero of Portland’s win in Miami a night earlier, sat out with a left knee contusion. Stotts said he should be ready to return by Sunday.
Portland center Jusuf Nurkic, who had been out since Jan. 14 with wrist and calf injuries, returned. In addition to being on a minutes’ restriction, Nurkic was limited to five-minute stretches after starting. He had eight points and eight rebounds in 19 minutes.
Magic President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman said the decision to tear apart the franchise’s core came when he determined it had topped out and would only offer diminishing returns. With a host of young players and picks coming their way, Weltman said the Magic can embark on a path they hope will lead to greater success.
“It’s great we made the playoffs the last couple of years … but we have to be honest about the timeline and the ceiling of that team,” Weltman said. “We’ve given ourselves a chance to raise our ceiling.”
Trail Blazers: Orlando native Anfernee Simons scored 15 points and made five 3s.… To acquire Powell, the Blazers had to send Gary Trent Jr. and Rodney Hood to Toronto. Coincidentally, Trent’s father, Gary, was also dealt from Portland to Toronto halfway through his third NBA season in 1998.
Magic: Guard Michael Carter-Williams (illness) was scratched from the starting lineup, but entered the midway through the first period, while Terrence Ross (sore knee) missed his sixth straight game. … Coach Steve Clifford on his team’s changes: “One thing about the NBA is things change quickly and sometimes they change drastically. Coaches have to adjust and embrace it and players have to embrace it if they want to be successful.”
Trail Blazers: Vs. Toronto in Tampa on Sunday night.
Magic: At Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night.