Lillard, McCollum lead Blazers past Magic
ORLANDO, Fla. — Damian Lillard never got worried during the Portland Trail Blazers’ five-game losing streak, so why should he get stressed when the other team is making a late run?
Lillard scored 21 points and CJ McCollum added 20 as the Trail Blazers held off a late Orlando Magic challenge for a 95-88 victory on Friday.
The Blazers won their second straight game following the five-game skid, and they handed the Magic their fourth straight loss.
Lillard had 13 third-quarter points as he gave Portland its biggest lead of the game on a driving lay-up that made it 71-54 with 5:04 remaining in the third quarter.
Orlando closed to 75-69 on Marreese Speights’ 3-pointer with 11:12 remaining, but the Blazers went on a 10-0 run to take an 85-69 lead on a Zach Collins’ alley-oop with 8:04 left.
The Magic closed to within five points twice, the last at 93-88 on a Jonathon Simmons layup with 26 seconds to play, but Al-Farouq Aminu answered with a dunk that concluded the scoring.
“We just had a stretch where we weren’t making good reads or passes, and it gave Orlando opportunities to go the other way,” said Portland coach Terry Stotts. “Other than that, it was a really good win.”
Portland (15-13) snapped its skid by coming back to defeat Miami, but Friday’s win was a matter of maintaining an advantage.
“The other team’s going to make a run,” said Lillard. “Winning on their home court is always going to be tough. You have to be ready for it.”
Portland was flirting with its best defensive effort since holding Phoenix to 76 points on opening night. This was the Trail Blazers’ third time this season that they kept an opponent under 90 points.
“Every year, a team is going to have adversity,” Lillard said. “We had been defending well (during the skid), we hadn’t been scoring, but we had to find ways to get around. We did a good job of addressing the issues and stayed locked in.”
Aminu added 15 points as the Trail Blazers (15-13) swept the season series.
Orlando, meanwhile, continues to deal with adversity in the form of injuries.
Nikola Vucevic led an injury-wrecked Orlando (11-19) team with 26 points and 14 rebounds, while Simmons and D.J. Augustin added 15 and 14 points, respectively. Aaron Gordon, who returned to the Magic after missing three games with a concussion, had 13 points before leaving the game midway through the fourth quarter with a right calf strain.
“We’re banged up,” said Magic coach Frank Vogel. “Guys are just playing with fight and heart.”
Aminu was 3 of 4 from 3-point range and was complemented by balanced scoring that helped Portland turn an early six-point deficit into a double-figure lead.
“When (Aminu) is shooting the way he’s shooting, it really spaces the court,” Stotts said. “Other teams are starting to respect that a little bit and that opens things up for other guys.”
Portland’s biggest lead of the first half came on a Lillard 3-pointer with 2:40 remaining that made it 48-35, but Orlando cut that to 50-43 at halftime despite Gordon picking up his third foul midway through the period.
Despite shooting just 39.1 percent (10 of 24), Portland managed a 24-20 first-quarter lead with Aminu and McCollum combining for 14 points. Gordon got off to a strong start, making four of his first five shots for 10 first-quarter points, but Orlando lost its early lead by missing eight of its final 10 shots.
“Rhythm wasn’t a problem,” Vogel said about his team’s offense. “We had a lot of positive possessions, we just didn’t get a lot of payoff.”
NOTES: Trail Blazers C Jusuf Nurkic (sprained ankle) started, but was on a minutes restriction; he finished the night playing 25 after missing the last three games. He led Portland with 11 rebounds. ... Portland is now 6-2 on the road against Eastern Conference teams this season. ... Magic coach Frank Vogel got in a one-liner during pregame availability when asked if Aaron Gordon’s minutes would be limited in his return. “48,” Vogel said. ... Magic G/F Arron Afflalo missed his second straight game due to back spasms. ... Orlando F Jonathan Isaac practiced for the first time since his Nov. 11 ankle sprain on Thursday, but did not play Friday. ... Also out: Evan Fournier (ankle sprain) and Terrence Ross (knee sprain). ... The Magic sent Khem Birch to its Lakeland (Fla.) G League team