ORLANDO — The Portland Trail Blazers fell to 45-27 on the season, 19-18 away from the Moda Center and 0-3 on their current five-game road trip with a 95-85 loss to the Orlando Magic at the Amway Center Tuesday night.
“It’s difficult to win games when you don’t get the rebounds that you need, you don’t defend the way you should and you don’t make shots the way we’re capable of,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “This is a very, extremely disappointing loss and in fact it was a game we needed to have.”
The win ends Orlando’s nine-game losing streak. At 20-52 on the season, they own the third-worst record in the NBA ahead of only the 76ers and Bucks. The Trail Blazers, playing once again without their starting power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, had one of the best records in the Western Conference against Eastern Conference teams prior to the trip, though that is no longer the case after three-straight losses, two of which were by double-digits to teams with losing records.
Portland shot 37 percent from the field and 27 percent from three while turning the ball over 15 times. Portland, a team ranked second in the NBA in points per game at 107.3, have failed to score at least 100 points in their last three contests.
“They played with more energy,” said Trail Blazers guard Wesley Matthews, who finished with 18 points, three assists and a rebound in 35 minutes. “They rebounded the ball. We scored 85 points. We are a team that scored in the hundreds, so regardless we have to win games. We need to keep playing basketball and play with an urgency.”
Urgency was nowhere to be found for the Trail Blazers in the second quarter, as the Magic used a 16-0 run to take control of the game against a team playing on the second night of a back-to-back. Orlando was able to extend their lead to 14 by the start of the fourth quarter with the Trail Blazers unable to mount any kind of sustained rally. The Magic would push the lead to 17 in the final quarter before coasting to a 10-point victory.
“I don’t think there is anything wrong, I just think we are out of rhythm,” said Damian Lillard. “Everything isn’t flowing as easy. Obviously we do not have (Aldridge), which takes away our biggest inside presence or that balance of being able to go to the block. The shots that we are used to making aren’t going in. Some of our coverages defensively are loose and we are a step slow getting into it. Teams are getting baskets that we shouldn’t be giving up. There are a number of things we need to do better to get a win.”
The Trail Blazers were led by Robin Lopez, who went 9 of 13 from the field and finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds in 40 minutes.
“Robin (Lopez) kept us in the game with all of his put-backs, his rebounds,” said Stotts. “He played almost the whole second half. We’d get the ball to him on rolls, and he gets his offensive rebounds and that’s how he helps us offensively. He played a terrific game. He played his ass off tonight.”
As if losing to one of the worst teams in the NBA wasn’t enough, the Trail Blazers fell to a half game ahead of the Warriors for the fifth seed in the Western Conference. But what’s much, much worse is the Trail Blazers, once considered a sure-fire playoff team, are now just 2.5 games ahead of the Phoenix Suns, a team on the outside looking in as the ninth team in the West.
“I think we are just in a new territory for some guys,” said Lopez. “It is late in the season, and the playoffs haven’t started but essentially the playoffs have started. We need to realize that.”
After losing seven of their last 10 games, the conversation regarding the playoffs in Portland has gone from whether they could secure home court advantage in the first round to whether they’ll simply be able to qualify for the postseason with 10 games to play in the regular season.
“We have to have an urgency,” said Stotts. “We have to defend. We have to do the little things to win games. We have to realize that’s not going to come easily. And that has to be our approach going into every game.”
A postseason birth seemed like a foregone conclusion just a week ago, but three-straight losses and recent wins by the likes of Memphis, Dallas and Phoenix have added another level of pressure to a team trying to stay afloat without their best player.
“It’s a sense of urgency to get wins, as it should be,” said Aldridge, who said after the game that he hopes to play in Portland’s next game versus the Hawks in Atlanta on Thursday. “We’ve definitely let ourselves slide too far and we all want to get wins right now and we understand the magnitude of trying to take care of business right now. So I think everybody knows the importance of winning right now.”
It’s one thing to know that winning is important. It’s entirely another to be able to go out and do it. Portland will try to do just that Thursday in Atlanta. Tipoff is schedule for 4:30 PM.