Goal for road trip: Fin­ish 2-2

Orlando Sentinel - - COLLEGE FOOTBALL -

PORT­LAND, Ore. — The sound of sneak­ers squeak­ing on a bas­ket­ball court filled Moda Cen­ter as the Or­lando Magic prac­ticed Tues­day af­ter­noon. Then, at 1:31 p.m., a loud

rose above the squeak­ing.

About a half-minute later, an­other

Magic play­ers did the cheer­ing, re­act­ing to plays their team­mates made.

“We had some en­thu­si­asm to­day, and that was good,” coach said af­ter the work­out ended. “No­body’s re­ally happy that we lost two in a row, the way we lost two in a row. We felt like we missed an op­por­tu­nity last night [against Golden State] and if we did some things bet­ter, we could’ve got­ten the big­gest win of the year. But we’ve got to put that be­hind us.”

The spirit at prac­tice was a wel­come sign for the Magic, who will con­clude their four-game West Coast road trip tonight against the Port­land Trail Blaz­ers.

Dif­fi­cult stretches of a sched­ule can re­veal the col­great lec­tive char­ac­ter of an NBA team, and the Magic have reached one of those mo­ments.

How much fight do the Magic have? How re­silient are they? Do they bat­tle through fa­tigue?

An­swers should start com­ing into clearer fo­cus soon.

The trip started with a vic­tory over the Phoenix Suns but fol­lowed with con­vinc­ing losses to the Den­ver Nuggets and War­riors.

The Magic opened their sea­son with the goal of play­ing .500 on the road, so a vic­tory over the Trail Blaz­ers, and the Blaz­ers’ stand­out back­court tan­dem of

and and cen­ter

would pro­vide a sig­nif­i­cant lift.

“Our only goal is to go 2-2 now,” for­ward

said. Or­lando play­ers en­tered their game against Golden State know­ing they had to play nearly per­fect bas­ket­ball to win, and they per­formed well dur­ing the first half. But they un­rav­eled when the War­riors made a run dur­ing the third quar­ter. Con­fronted by the War­riors’ switch­ing de­fense and un­able to push the ball up­court fol­low­ing the War­riors’ made bas­kets, the Magic re­verted to too much one-onone play and failed to move the ball.

“If we play like we played in the first half [against Golden State] of­fen­sively — we move the ball, we make the other team work — we’re go­ing to be OK,” cen­ter said.

“But we have to pick it up de­fen­sively. I feel like we have too many break­downs, sim­ple things that the coach­ing staff puts in for us, game plans that are good. We just don’t fol­low them. Some­times we try to cre­ate our own things. Some­times we just have men­tal break­downs, and we can’t have those, es­pe­cially against a team like Port­land, who has Lil­lard, McCol­lum and Nur­kic. That’s their three guys. They play very well, so we’re go­ing to have to be at our best against them.

“But it would be a great win for us to go home 2-2 on this West Coast trip. It’d be for us.” Point guard

who strained his left ham­string Nov. 1 and has missed Or­lando’s last six games, is mak­ing progress with his re­cov­ery.

Magic of­fi­cials have listed Au­gustin as out for tonight’s game against the Blaz­ers, but Au­gustin shot bas­kets for about 10 min­utes af­ter his team­mates con­cluded their prac­tice. Swing­man

grew up in Port­land. Jef­fer­son High School, which he at­tended, is about 2.3 miles from Moda Cen­ter.

His mom and grand­mother now live in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, but Ross still has close friends in Port­land.

“I’ll prob­a­bly go to some food spots, go check out a cou­ple of shoe stores,” Ross said.

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