ORLANDO – The Orlando Magic are at a place the Portland Trail Blazers were expected to be at this season: Rebuilding with a new head coach in place.
The difference is that the Trail Blazers (25-25) have decided to disregard what they were supposed to accomplish and are in the midst of making a strong playoff push.
Tonight's meeting between these two teams is the second and final game of the season. The Trail Blazers won the first contest in overtime at Portland in early January 125-119.
To say the Magic (14-36) are struggling would be an understatement. They are riding a 12-game losing streak and have amazingly dropped 23 of their last 25 games. But the interesting tidbit is that seven of the last nine games have been decided by 10 or fewer points when these squads lock horns.
Arron Afflalo is the Magic's leading scorer with 16.8 points per game. That should give you an indication as to where this team is at.
After taking care of the first game in Minnesota on this six-game road trip, the Trail Blazers have lost two straight at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks and on Friday to the red hot Houston Rockets.
The Rockets shot 60 percent from the field and 46 percent from three-point range.
James Harden played as well as any player could play going for 35 points on 13-for-16 shooting, seven rebounds and 11 assists. At the half, he had 20 points on 8-for-8 from the field and distributed eight assists. Harden's first miss came at the 4:31 mark in the third quarter.
Even though the Rockets were in the zone, Trail Blazers Head Coach Terry Stotts says they could have done a better job defensively.
“We probably could have contested them better,” Stotts said. “They had a lot of shots, but when they spread the court like they do and penetrate and find and move the ball well, they're hard to guard.”
He later added: “When teams shoot 60 percent, you can always contest a little bit better and do things better defensively.”
Expect the Trail Blazers' defense to be much-improved tonight.
Tonight's game will be televised on Comcast SportsNet at 3 p.m. and on KPOJ 620 radio.