PORTLAND, Ore. — The Orlando Magic finally have a signature win, and it doesn’t matter to them that they needed to hang on for their basketball lives at the very end.
They ventured into one of the toughest venues in the NBA, dominated a quality opponent for three-plus quarters and survived at the end to beat the Portland Trail Blazers 107-104 at the Rose Garden.
“It’s a huge win because they’re a great team,” said power forward Ryan Anderson. “They’re a great team at home, and we need to get these big wins on the road, especially when we have these big stretches like this.”
Moving the ball better than they have all season, the Magic made almost 59 percent of their shot attempts and went 16-of-27 from 3-point range.
Detractors, of course, will say that the Magic entered Wednesday refreshed after having two nights off. Meanwhile, the Trail Blazers had played the night before.
Those critics will have a valid point. Early on, Orlando (7-3) played with more energy and jumped on Portland (7-3) from the get-go. The Magic made their first four baskets on three easy layups and a dunk to set the tone for what followed.
“I think we can hang our hat on this game in the sense that we played extremely well for 42, 40 minutes against a great team, a great defensive team, in their building,” said J.J. Redick.
With Howard passing out of double-teams effectively, it seemed like the Magic had one wide-open shot or easy layup after another.
But they converted those easy shots.
“They pretty much got what they want,” Blazers coach Nate McMillan said.
“Howard was deep in the post. The plan was to try and get him off the block and play him straight-up and stay with their 3-point shooters. But we lost those guys, and they knocked down every mistake we made.”
Seven Magic players scored in double-figures, led by Redick, who had 17 points and hit a pair of key foul shots late.
Anderson, Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu had 16 points apiece.
And Howard scored 13 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and had four assists.
His stat line would have been more impressive, but he continues to struggle terribly at the foul line. He missed nine of his 12 free-throw attempts.
The Magic now have a chance to gain more momentum. They can complete their West Coast road trip with a 3-0 record if they beat the Golden State Warriors on Thursday night in Oakland, Calif.
“It’d be great,” Howard said. “It’d be great. Tomorrow’s going to be a tough game. Golden State, they play great at home. Their guards are tremendous.”
For a while Wednesday, it looked like the Magic started to look ahead to that nationally televised matchup against Golden State.
A hook shot by Anderson put Orlando ahead 90-70 early in the fourth quarter, temporarily silencing the announced sellout crowd of 20,467 inside the Rose Garden.
But with LaMarcus Aldridge picking-and-popping, Gerald Wallace slashing and longtime nemesis Jamal Crawford hitting one high-arcing jumper after another, Portland cut that lead to 96-93 with 2:38 remaining.
It looked like Orlando was in store for an epic collapse.
Turkoglu responded with a driving layup to put Orlando up by five points.
“It was just me looking for the best opportunity,” Turkoglu said. “I was just reading the defense. They kind of play in-between. They knew always that I’m going to pass for Dwight. They just kind of stayed back and I’d seen the opening and I just drived.”
On the Magic’s next possession, Turkoglu swished a step-back 3-pointer.
“Those were huge,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. “We were dying, and then we went to him twice and ended up with five points. Huge. Those were, to me, the game-winners right there.”
Portland still fought back.
In the final minute, Wesley Matthews ripped the ball out of Nelson’s hands in the Magic’s backcourt and went up for a dunk that shrunk Orlando’s lead to 102-99 with 32.1 seconds left.
Jason Richardson was fouled on the Magic’s ensuing possession and made one of two foul shots to put the Magic up 103-99 with 28.8 seconds to play.
After Crawford made a driving layup to cut Orlando’s lead to two points, J.J. Redick was fouled with 16.5 seconds left and made both foul shots.
“That’s who you want on the line at the end of the game,” Van Gundy said. “Of all the guys that we could have out there, he’s the guy we’d want on the line at the end.”
Those foul shots iced the game.
“It felt good, because I felt like I had two shots there in the last three or four minutes that could have kept that lead at eight or 11,” Redick said.
“I think those free throws helped me get over that frustration. Otherwise, I’d be in here punching walls.”
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