Portland came into Monday’s game at Orlando on a three-game losing streak and if they really wanted to keep any hope alive of making the postseason it had to be a game they won. With Damian Lillard set to come back in the next game against the Wizards, this was a chance to put together a winning streak.
CJ McCollum took the load of the team on his shoulders and made sure whatever had to be done for a Portland win was done.
McCollum got things going early and didn’t stop before the break, putting up 23 points in the first half. A first-half that saw Portland lead 69-58.
Outside of McCollum, it was also a well-rounded first half for the whole team. While Orlando is only 27-34 following this 130-107 Portland win, the Magic were playing well coming into this game. It did help Portland immensely that Aaron Gordon didn’t play, but Nikola Vucevic still put up a big game and that was something Portland dealt with by holding Evan Fournier to just 13 points on 5/14 shooting.
Where the Blazers really separated themselves in this game though was in the fourth quarter. It was a period where Portland played strong defense and was able to outscore the Magic 38-19.
McCollum continued to do his fair share of damage in the final period, ending with 41 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists. But his backcourt mate with Lillard sidelined, Gary Trent Jr., continued to show that he’s more than capable of playing at the NBA level, going for 24 points on the night and really heating up in the fourth quarter, finishing with 24 points in all.
Perhaps the biggest surprise in this game though was the play of Mario Hezonja. He did get called for a technical foul what seemed like twice and he was still allowed to play, which was weird, but overall he put up 10 points on 4/6 shooting to go with eight rebounds and four assists.
Hezonja has largely been unplayable this season, but if he can contribute anything close to that the rest of the season, he will be a useful player off the bench.
Overall this was a critical win for Portland if they are going to make it to the postseason. Again, Damian Lillard is expected to return in the team’s next game, and that game is against the Washington Wizards, giving Portland a chance to start a winning streak.
The Blazers will host the Wizards on Wednesday at Moda Center.
Top Photo: Bruce Ely/Portland Trail Blazers