Orlando Magic forward Paolo Banchero, center right, shoots over Portland Trail Blazers guard Josh Hart during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)

Magic Top Blazers in Portland 109-106

The Orlando Magic bounced back from Monday’s loss with a 109-106 win against the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday night.

Orlando led from the jump but held off a valiant comeback effort in the final moments to hang on for the Magic’s 16th win of the year.

Wagner Leads the Way

Franz Wagner led the way for the Magic, scoring 29 points to go along with two steals and two assists. Most importantly, he tallied 15 points in the fourth quarter to help hold off the rallying Trail Blazers. Wagner, in his second year out of Michigan, has had an impressive year for Orlando. He’s averaged just over 20 points, shooting 49% from the field.

https://twitter.com/DimeUPROXX/status/1613041910808977411

Other key contributors for the Magic included Wendell Carter Jr., Paolo Banchero and Markelle Fultz.

Carter Jr. had 20 points and 10 rebounds for his ninth double-double of the year.

Banchero also recorded his seventh double-double of the season with 19 points and 10 boards. The rookie has performed well all season long and has continued that success into 2023. Fultz added 18 points for his third consecutive game scoring in double figures.

Damian Lillard was at the forefront of the Blazers’ comeback efforts. He totaled 30 points for the second consecutive game. However, the Blazers continue to spiral as they’re in the midst of a four-game losing streak. Center Jusuf Nurkic added one of his best performances of the season, with 22 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks and two steals in the losing effort.

Magic Hang On

Orlando entered Tuesday coming off of a loss to the Sacramento Kings on Monday night. Unlike Monday’s loss, the Magic came out strong and opened a large first quarter lead. At the end of the first quarter, Orlando led by as much as 14 points.

The second quarter was not as kind to the Magic. After growing the lead to 19 early in the second quarter, a scoreless stretch for the Magic that lasted almost five minutes found Portland within two points late in the half. The Trail Blazers had an opportunity to take the lead in the final five seconds, but Nurkic split his two free throws, and the two teams went to halftime knotted at 50.

Despite drawing even right before the conclusion of the first half, Portland quickly found themselves back in a deficit. Orlando slowly built its lead again and grew a 15-point lead before the midpoint of the third quarter.

The Blazers cut the lead to nine entering the final quarter, but again closed in on the Magic as the game headed into the final moments. In the final minute and trailing by four, Gary Harris fouled Lillard, an 88% free throw shooter, on a three-point attempt. Lillard made all three, and the Magic’s lead fell to just one.

The Magic added two free throws courtesy of Markelle Fultz to take a 109-106 lead. The Blazers had the ball with 22 seconds to play but missed three consecutive three-pointers as time expired for their fourth straight loss.

https://twitter.com/FanDuel/status/1613050422926913537

Banchero Strong All-Star Case

Last year’s first overall pick, Paolo Banchero, has been the face of this young Magic team. Entering the 2022-2023 season, Orlando was the fourth youngest team in the league.

Still, Banchero and the Magic find themselves with an opportunity to make the playoffs.

On a more personal note, Banchero has turned enough heads to receive over 200,000 All-Star votes, which ranks him eighth amongst Eastern Conference frontcourt players.

If he is to make the All-Star Game, he will be the first rookie to play in the game since Blake Griffin in 2011.

Magic Moving Forward

With Tuesday’s win, the Magic move to 16-26 which puts them fourth in their division. Despite a rough start, Orlando is very much in the playoff race. The Magic currently sit 3.5 games back of the 10th seed in the Eastern Conference, which is the final play-in tournament spot.

With 40 games left to go, the Magic will have plenty of opportunities to gain ground in the standings. However, they will need to avoid lengthy losing streaks, which has hampered Orlando all season long.

The Magic opened the year with five straight losses and experienced a nine-game losing streak which dropped the team to 5-20. While Orlando has gone 11-6 since that losing streak, it is not sustainable for the Magic to experience long stretches of losses if they look to make a run for a playoff spot.

Looking ahead to the next few games for the Magic, they’ll wrap up their five-game road trip this weekend with games against the Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets. They’ll then return home for a matchup against the Pelicans.

About Matt Quartararo

Matt is a fourth-year journalism major specializing in sports media and is also completing a sports management certificate. Starting in the Fall 2023 semester, Matt has served as a sports coordinator with WRUF. He also participates in sports broadcasting, providing play-by-play for a variety of Gators sports.

Check Also

Timberwolves Take Game Seven Over Defending Champs

When asked in his post-game press conference after Sunday’s game seven loss about whether the …