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Trail Blazers look for improved play at home vs. Magic

Jan 8, 2023; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Portland Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic (27) and head coach Chauncey Billups discuss a play against the Toronto Raptors at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Having endured seven straight road setbacks, the Portland Trail Blazers are surely salivating at their upcoming schedule.

Portland begins a stretch in which it plays 10 of 11 games at home on Tuesday night when it entertains the Orlando Magic.

A Jan. 17 game at the Denver Nuggets marks the lone time the Trail Blazers will be away from home the rest of this month.

Yet Josh Hart wasn’t too interested in the location of games after Sunday’s 117-105 loss to the host Toronto Raptors.

“We’ve got to play better,” Hart said afterward. “The arena doesn’t matter. We’ve got to play better.”

Hart has a point: Portland committed 60 turnovers — an average of 20 per game — during a 0-3 road trip that also included losses to the Minnesota Timberwolves and Indiana Pacers.

Trail Blazers coach Chauncey Billups was highly disappointed after the club’s season-worst 24 turnovers against the Raptors.

“Those turnovers hurt us, man, just hurt us,” Billups said. “It continues to be our Achilles heel. So, just got to keep working at it.”

Overall, Portland has lost seven of its last nine games and has dropped below .500 for the first time this season at 19-20.

Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard scored 34 points against Toronto, the third time he has reached that output in the past seven games. However, he has scored less than 20 three times during the span.

His outside shooting touch has been off during the stretch. Lillard has made just 18 of 66, a meager 27.3 percent.

Lillard was sidelined with a season-ending abdominal injury when the Magic recorded a 113-95 home win over the Trail Blazers on Feb. 8. That halted Orlando’s 10-game losing streak against Portland.

The Magic have lost five of their last seven overall games after being routed 136-111 by the Sacramento Kings on Monday night. The Kings made a franchise-record 23 3-pointers and took advantage of an Orlando defense that allowed 107 points over the first three quarters.

“You have to give them credit, they came out and kicked our tails,” Magic coach Jamahl Mosley said.

Orlando is 1-1 on a five-game road trip, having delivered a 115-101 win over the Golden State Warriors on Saturday to open the excursion.

While the Magic stand 15-26 at the season’s midway point, the good side of the equation is they have won 10 of 16 games since a porous 5-20 start.

The improvement has Mosley optimistic about the second half of the season.

“We have a group of guys that are resilient, they want to continue to grow and continue to learn and play and work for one another,” Mosley said.

Standout rookie Paolo Banchero scored 17 points against Sacramento to see a stretch of four straight 20-point efforts conclude. Banchero’s hot streak included a 30-point performance and two 25-point outings.

Franz Wagner had topped 20 in three straight games before having 16 versus the Kings.

Markelle Fultz was 8-of-10 shooting and scored 16 points — his second game with 16.

Magic forward Bol Bol cleared health and safety protocols and is slated to join the team in Portland. He has missed the past four games.

Trail Blazers forward Justise Winslow (ankle) will miss his eighth straight contest.

–Field Level Media