National Basketball Association
Portland at Orlando
When: 7:00 PM ET, Thursday, February 23, 2017
Where: Amway Center, Orlando, Florida
The Portland Trail Blazers needed the rest after dropping three straight and five of six prior to the All-Star break and hope to return rejuvenated for the final 26 games of the regular season. The Orlando Magic, who host the Trail Blazers on Thursday, spent the month prior to the break sinking toward the bottom of the Eastern Conference and are looking for their own turnaround.
Portland begins the stretch run two games behind Denver in the race for the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference and made its bid to improve before the All-Star break by bringing in center Jusuf Nurkic in a trade with the Nuggets. The Trail Blazers are hoping the multi-talented big man can help them during a stretch of three straight road games against Eastern Conference teams coming out of the break. The Magic got a jump on the trade deadline before the break as well by sending away power forward Serge Ibaka to the Toronto Raptors in a deal that brought back swingman Terrence Ross. Ross sat out the final game before the break as Orlando limped into All-Star week with a 107-79 home loss to the San Antonio Spurs - its 17th loss in the last 22 games.TV:
7 p.m. ET, CSN Northwest (Portland), FSN Florida (Orlando)ABOUT THE TRAIL BLAZERS (23-33):
Portland made its deal for Nurkic before the league found out what it would take to get DeMarcus Cousins from the Sacramento Kings, but the team is excited about what Nurkic can bring. The 22-year-old went 5-of-5 from the floor en route to 13 points and added seven rebounds in 21 minutes off the bench in his Blazers debut - a 111-88 loss at Utah on Feb. 15. "I think he showed a lot of what he can give us," Portland coach Terry Stotts told reporters of Nurkic. "He was effective finishing around the basket. I think he has a nice shooting touch (in the) midrange. He's a big body, sets good screens. Honestly, he did what we thought he could do."ABOUT THE MAGIC (21-37):
Orlando reportedly had a shot at Cousins as well but did not make the deal and instead improved its athleticism with Ross while setting a path toward the draft lottery. Ross gives the Magic two former NBA dunk contest participants along with forward Aaron Gordon and adds some much-needed outside shooting prowess to a team that ranks 28th in the league in 3-point percentage (33.1). "A lot of guys come to new teams and new situations and get opportunities to do different things, so we’re going to let him spread his wings a little bit and see what he’s capable of doing," Orlando coach Frank Vogel told reporters of Ross. "Obviously, we’re moving to more of a spread-lineup type of approach."BUZZER BEATERS
1. Magic C Nikola Vucevic recorded a double-double in four of the last five games.
2. Trail Blazers star PG Damian Lillard slumped into the break by going 9-of-40 from the floor over the last two games.
3. Orlando earned a 115-109 win at Portland on Jan. 13 behind 30 points and 10 boards from Vucevic.PREDICTION:
Trail Blazers 113, Magic 102
Stats and Records