After completing a successful road trip East, the Portland Trail Blazers look to resume their domination at home.
If they are to extend their best start at the Rose Garden in a decade, the Trail Blazers will have to cool off the Orlando Magic on Tuesday when the division leaders conclude their two-game season series.
Portland (15-7) has won seven of its last eight overall, including a 4-1 mark on its eight-day road trip against Eastern Conference teams. The Blazers closed the stretch with a 98-97 win over Toronto on Sunday, and their only loss on the trip came against reigning NBA champion Boston - 93-78 last Friday.
The Blazers now return to the Rose Garden, where they are 7-0 - their best start since winning the first nine home games of the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season.
While Portland has dominated at home, winning by an average of 14.7 points, it had to overcome a rough start Sunday, when it trailed by as many as 16 points early in the second quarter. The Blazers rallied, though, culminating when Steve Blake hit a 3-pointer with eight seconds remaining for the victory.
“This is a tough game when you’ve been on the road as long as we have,” Portland coach Nate McMillan said. “Sometimes your mind is on the plane before the game is over. One thing I’ve told our guys is let’s focus, let’s not get our minds on the end of the game and go on home. Let’s focus on this game and try and get this game.”
Blake finished with 19 points and seven rebounds while LaMarcus Aldridge had 20 points and eight boards - both team highs. With Sunday’s win, the Blazers improved to 8-1 against the Eastern Conference, but a hot Orlando (16-5) team will present a challenge.
The Magic opened their five-game road trip against Western Conference teams Monday with an 95-88 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers - their third straight win overall and seventh in the last eight games. They improved to 6-3 against teams from the West, although one of those losses was a 106-99 defeat at home against Portland on Nov. 10. That loss ended Orlando’s four-game winning streak over the Blazers.
On Monday, Orlando built an early lead but then struggled against a weak Clippers team. The Magic fell behind by nine points in the third quarter before ultimately pulling away in the fourth.
Dwight Howard finished with 23 points, 22 rebounds and six blocked shots, while Rashard Lewis had 18 points and seven rebounds for the Magic. The effort was Howard’s second 20-20 game in a row and his 17th double-double of the season.
“The biggest thing is winning on the road,” Howard said. “It doesn’t matter who we play. We’ve just got to get better. We’re going to start playing some tough teams pretty soon. We’ve got Portland tomorrow and they haven’t lost at home, so we’ve got to be ready.”