Trail Blazers vs Magic Monday, 01/07/13 AT 07:00PM

Trail Blazers Face Young Magic For First Time

01/07/13
  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 5.0

    BY ERIK GUNDERSEN

    Tonight the Trail Blazers (18-15) face the Orlando Magic (12-21) for the first time this season. Portland started the New Year with a 3-1 road trip against stiff competition and now return home to face a young Orlando team that plays hard every single night. Tonight's game will tip off at 7PM and will be shown on CSNNW and can be heard on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.

        •    This game features two of the best coaching jobs in the NBA. Expectations for both the Magic and Trail Blazers were very low coming into the season. The Magic, who had surprised many with big wins, are 10th in the Eastern Conference in a season where many had assumed they would be a contender for the number one pick in the draft after trading away Dwight Howard. Jacque Vaughn has helped motivate a cast of players, with no real all-stars many young players, to come ready to play every night. Stotts, with a great deal more talent has done an amazing job as well, with Portland now three games over .500 for the first time all season. It seems that for the Trail Blazers, they have done a fantastic job of correcting mistakes and getting better, which has translated into wins. Portland is currently ranked 8th in the tough Western Conference and third in the Northwest Division. With the defending NBA Champions coming to town later in the week, Portland must stay focused on the Magic and not look ahead. That's exactly one of the things that the Magic take advantage of. Portland has shown only a few letdowns this whole season, but the last time they came home from a road trip, they had one. Last time around, they were exhausted and decimated by injuries. Portland cannot afford to relax in this one. The schedule will only get harder and continuing their winning ways will hopefully continue to boost their confidence.

        •    LaMarcus Aldridge continues to make his case for the All-Star team. Despite being the center of trade speculation and being called "soft," Aldridge has been a force for Portland. Aldridge has been especially brilliant on the defensive end. Aldridge has had major offensive performances where he's carried teams but throughout this season, Aldridge has often been the anchor of the defense even if he isn't technically playing center. Against the Grizzlies, his five blocks and 12 boards helped the Trail Blazers match Memphis' toughness and he continued to make huge plays against Minnesota, on both ends. Frankly, Aldridge has made an even better case for the All-Star game this season as the team has defied all expectations, with Aldridge as their leader. Aldridge has become an elite post defender, as he ranks in the 95th percentile in points per possession against post-ups according to Synergy Sports Technology. Although Portland is still not good defensive team on a consistent basis, they've improved leaps and bounds to where they were in the beginning of the season and a lot of credit goes to Aldridge. Aldridge is also 8th in the NBA in scoring and averages 8.4 rebounds, 1.3 blocks and 1 steal per game.

        •    The Trail Blazers need to continue to hit the glass. Over the last two games, the Trail Blazers have done a fantastic job holding their own against superior rebounding teams. The Magic are a team like that as they are third in the NBA in defensive rebound percentage (a stat that calculates the amount of available rebounds that a team or player grabs). The Magic are disciplined and don't allow teams many second shots. The man that Portland must not lose track of for Orlando is Nikola Vucevic. Vucevic has three straight double-doubles coming into tonight for the Magic, including a monster 20 point, 29 rebound performance on New Years Eve. JJ Hickson and Aldridge will certainly have their work cut out for them on the boards.

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