Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard will not suit up on the second night of a back to back, but don't be too concerned.
Lillard has been playing through knee pain and says he's "just dealing with the stiffness and the swelling." So, there's really no reason for him to play.
Because the Magic can barely field a team.
On Thursday night, the Portland Trail Blazers got a chance to play the Miami Heat while they had just nine players available and were without Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic.
On Friday night, the Trail Blazers are once again going to be playing a team that is down numerous players in the Orlando Magic.
The Magic blew up their team ahead of the 2021 NBA trade deadline, moving their top-three players in Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier, and Aaron Gordon along with Al-Farouq Aminu for numerous assets.
However, those assets -- Wendell Carter Jr., Otto Porter, Jeff Teague, Gary Harris, and R.J. Hampton -- won't be ready to play yet 24 hours after being acquired. As a result, the team has already ruled them out for Friday's game.
In addition to those players, the Magic are going to be without a few other players. Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac are out for the season with knee injuries. Cole Anthony is out indefinitely with a rib injury. And even Terrence Ross, who figures to be the Magic's best player with the others traded, is going to be out with a sore knee.
As a result, the Magic will only have eight players available on Friday, the minimum required to field a team for this season. They will be:
- G Dwayne Bacon
- C Mo Bamba
- C Khem Birch
- PG Michael Carter-Williams
- SF James Ennis
- SG Karim Mane
- PF Chuma Okeke
- PG Chasson Randle
So, the Magic aren't going to be very deep, and their leading scorer of the available players, Bacon, averages just 9.9 points per game. They could struggle to generate offense, so this could work to the Blazers' benefit.
It's also worth noting that since the Magic have two centers among their eight players, they will always have a big man on the floor. That means that one of Jusuf Nurkic, who is set to play for the first time in over two months, and Enes Kanter will almost always be on the floor and they should have a great matchup against these two bigs that have averaged less than 20 minutes per game.
Meanwhile, Portland will be the closest they've been to full strength for quite some time with Nurkic set to return.
Additionally, Norman Powell could play his first game with the team. Since the Blazers and Raptors were both serendipitously in Florida during the deadline, it's possible that Powell, along with Gary Trent Jr. and Rodney Hood, could have their physicals done and be ready to change places before the Blazers-Magic game. That's not a guarantee, but it's at least possible.
The Trail Blazers entered Friday's game a 10-point favorite over the Magic prior to Lillard being out, odds which were provided by our partner PointsBet.
Even if the Blazers don't have Powell, they need to take advantage of this shorthanded Magic team and should be positioned to do that.