Perhaps no Orlando Magic player is more adept at dealing with time zone changes than center Nik Vucevic. The 7-foot center hails from Europe and traveled from Montenegro to Los Angeles and back throughout his final year of high school and his three years at the University of Southern California.
As Tuesday night's game against the Portland Trail Blazers approached, Vucevic insisted he had no problems readjusting to Eastern Daylight Time following a West Coast road trip and the Magic's 5:30 a.m. arrival in Central Florida on Monday.
Vucevic sure played as if he felt wide-awake Tuesday night.
Benefiting from Magic guards' ability to drive into the lane and dish passes to him, Vucevic led the Magic to a 95-85 win over the Trail Blazers at Amway Center as the Magic snapped a nine-game losing streak.
"I felt pretty good," Vucevic said. "I got going early in the game. It boosted my confidence, so I just wanted to keep being aggressive."
With Trail Blazers center Robin Lopez repeatedly helping on defense when Vucevic's teammates penetrated into the lane, Vucevic scored 22 points on 10-of-18 shooting and collected 10 rebounds.
Tobias Harris added a game-high 25 points and 11 rebounds off the bench.
"It was tough for me," Harris said. "I didn't get too much sleep. I caught myself yawning a couple of times during today's game. But I just pushed through it."
The game started to turn in Orlando's favor in the second quarter, when the Magic scored 16 consecutive points.
The run started when coach Jacque Vaughn subbed starters Victor Oladipo, Arron Afflalo, Kyle O'Quinn and Vucevic into the game to join Doron Lamb on the court.
Vucevic immediately scored on a layup.
Mo Williams missed a 3-pointer on Portland's next trip down the court.
On Orlando's ensuing possession, the Magic swung the ball around the perimeter, and Oladipo made an extra pass from the left wing to Lamb, who was wide-open in the left corner. Lamb sank a 3-pointer that cut the Blazers' lead to 38-37.
After Portland's Victor Claver missed a jumper, Vucevic hit a 20-foot jumper of his own, putting the Magic ahead 39-38.
Vucevic seemed more aggressive on offense than he's looked in weeks. In the first half, he scored 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting, grabbed six rebounds, recorded a pair of steals and blocked a shot.
"It seemed like he felt really good on the floor," Vaughn said. "He caught the ball in great space on the floor and had great spacing around him so he could react with the basketball."
Oladipo's penetration into the lane — and the short, precise passes that followed — set the tone early.
"The season's been tough, but we could've just come out in these games and not care," Oladipo said. "But that'd be the wrong thing to do."
Portland's All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge has missed seven consecutive games due to a back contusion, and during his absence the Blazers have been forced to take more 3-pointers than they usually do. On Tuesday night, the Blazers went 7-for-26 from 3-point range.
"This is a very, extremely disappointing loss, and in fact it was a game we needed to have," Blazers coach Terry Stotts said.
Orlando was ahead 68-61 when Lopez tipped in a missed jumper by Damian Lillard.
It seemed like Portland (45-27) was about to make a run, but Orlando (20-52) squelched the potential rally.
Afflalo drove into the lane and dished to Harris in the right corner. Harris sank the 3-pointer.
"I think every team does feel better at home, on their home court in front of their home fans," Vucevic said. "That's pretty normal, but I don't know why we can't play close to that on the road."
firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/magicblog and follow him on Twitter at @JoshuaBRobbins.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun