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Blazers hold off Dwight-less Magic

Posted By Brandon Marcus On Mar 8 2011 @ 12:34 am In Portland Trail Blazers | No Comments

Dwight Howard picked his sixteenth technical foul on Friday against the Bulls, triggering a one game suspension by the NBA. Impeccable timing for the Blazers (36-27), who took advantage of his absence Monday evening, beating the rest of the Magic 89-85 for their third straight win.

The final possession was a microcosm of a sloppy, 18 turnover performance by Orlando. Trailing by four inside fifteen seconds, the Magic (40-24) badly mismanaged the shot clock;  an unconscious Hedo Turkolglu – perhaps missing the instructions in translation- declined an open three pointer, passing to Earl Clark instead, who dribbled inside the arc, effectively ending Orlando’s hopes. Afterward, Stan Van Gundy was livid at Turkoglu for passing up the shot, letting him know it as the two walked off the court in defeat.

Aided by Andre Miller  - and just his fourth three of the year – the Blazers stretched a four point halftime lead to fourteen midway through the third quarter. But the Magic would answer back; Gilbert Arenas and Jason Richardson (who had 12 points in the quarter) scored seven a piece, sparking a 16-4 stretch which sliced the lead back to four through three.

The hottest player on the court in the second half was Richardson, who hit two of his four threes early in the fourth to erase a six point Blazer lead. With 8:09 remaining, a right corner three by Ryan Anderson gave the Magic their first lead since the first quarter. Richardson, the high man for Orlando, had 19 of his 23 points in the second half, however he went scoreless in the final seven minutes of the fourth, when his team struggled to make shots.

In whats been a familiar sight this season, LaMarcus Aldridge drove aggressively from the left block to the right side of the lane, finishing with a scoop at the hoop on two consecutive trips giving Portland an 85-83 lead.

A minute later, Wes Matthews nailed a three-pointer to put the Blazers up 88-83 with 3:02 remaining. During the next time out, the refs went back to review a shot-clock beating, Ryan Anderson lay-up from a few possessions earlier. They deemed the bucket late; ruling a shot clock violation, taking two points off the Magic tally and abruptly pushing the lead to seven – enough for Portland to hold on in the final two minutes.

It was an efficient night for Aldridge (24 points on 10-18), Miller (15 points on 6-11) and the Blazers as a whole, who turned the ball over just seven times. The defense was sharp, energetic and aggressive, especially down the stretch, when they used their surfeit of athleticism to make seamless switches. Portland forced Orlando – a jump-shooting team as it is – to take mostly outside shots in Dwight Howard’s absence.

Clogging the lane, the Blazers stifled Jameer Nelson, who went just 1-7 for two points.

The Magic hit their threes -going 11-22 from beyond the arc – but shot just nine total free throws from the game; less than Howard alone attempts on an average evening.

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