Trail Blazers 92, Magic 73
The victory allowed Portland to close to within half-game of Denver and Utah in the race for the final Western Conference playoff spot. The Magic, an NBA-worst 33 games below .500, lost their fourth straight.
“Once we figured out we were tied in the loss column, we knew we had a chance,” Anderson said. “Now we can control our own destiny. You’ve gotta believe.”
The Trail Blazers, trying to make the playoffs for the 22nd year in a row, were undoubtedly pleased to miss McGrady, who was away attending his great-grandmother’s funeral.
“We weren’t really hyped at the beginning of the game, like we would be if Tracy was playing, so I’m glad Tracy wasn’t playing,” said Darius Miles, who scored eight points a day after being involved in a melee outside a Portland strip club.
The Trail Blazers shot 65 percent in the first quarter, with Ratliff, Zach Randolph and Miles slicing their way through the Magic’s interior defense. When those three weren’t scoring inside, Anderson hit open jumpers from the outside.
But the Trail Blazers, as if often the case, were inconsistent on the offensive end. A cold second quarter allowed the Magic to close to 47-42 at the half.
Howard’s three-point play early in the third quarter trimmed the lead to 51-50.
The teams traded baskets before the Trail Blazers had a 9-0 run, highlighted by Miles’ breakaway dunk and punctuated by Anderson’s 3-pointer with 3:43 left. A basket by Howard ended the run, but the Blazers scored the next six points to take a 71-56 into the final quarter.
“We had a little lull in trying to figure out their zone (defense),” Ratliff said. “But we figured them out in the second half.”
Ratliff, the league’s leading shot blocker, again played a key role in shutting off the inside. He stuffed Orlando center Andrew DeClercq four times as the Blazers held a 50-28 advantage in points in the paint.
“Thanks for reminding me,” DeClercq said.
“Theo’s athletic, he’s quick, he’s got great timing, he’s aggressive,” DeClercq added. “He did a great job in Atlanta, and he’s doing a great job here.
Miles summed up the Blazers’ feeling about Ratliff: “He is our general. The rest of us are just soldiers.”
The Magic, swept by the Blazers for the fifth year in row, shot 31 percent.
“I thought we played tough, but when you shoot 31 percent from the floor and 65 percent from the foul line, you’re going to struggle,” Orlando coachJohnny Davis said.
Davis averaged eight points per game as a rookie guard on the Trail Blazers’ 1977 championship team. … The Trail Blazers and Magic have had a series of streaks. The Blazers won the first eight meetings between the teams and the Magic won the next 11 of 12. The Blazers have won the last 10 times totake a 19-11 series lead.