PORTLAND, Ore. — The door to the visitors' locker room inside the Rose Garden remained closed long after the Portland Trail Blazers throttled the Orlando Magic 97-83 Thursday night.
So much needed to be said.
For almost 30 minutes, players — with coach Stan Van Gundy present — spoke about what had just occurred, how the team started its most difficult road trip so far this season without any energy. More people than usual talked after a loss. Their message was blunt.
"They threw everything they had at us, and we folded," center Dwight Howard said later, after the locker room opened.
"We shouldn't fold. Nothing should break us and it did. Until everybody steps up on the team and mans up, then teams are going to throw their best punch at us and we're going to fold."
The Magic looked awful from the middle of the second quarter onward. They led 38-26 midway through the period, and then were outscored 71-45 the rest of the way.
The Trail Blazers threw a punch, all right, and the Magic responded meekly.
Orlando allowed too many uncontested layups, usually because of poor defensive rotations.
The offense looked even worse. The ball movement slowed to a crawl, and the team didn't score a single fastbreak point.
Van Gundy predicted that this West Coast road trip and the difficult games that follow through Christmas will show just how good the Magic are.
They've started poorly.
The Magic have lost their last three games, and they have an even more difficult task ahead of them Friday night, when they face the Utah Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena, one of the toughest venues in the NBA.
On Thursday, at least, they received a monster game from Howard.
The all-star center scored a season-high 39 points on 13-of-20 shooting from the field and 13-of-18 shooting from the foul line.
Guard J.J. Redick scored 10 points off the bench.
But aside from Howard and Redick, the rest of the Magic's players shot 29.5 percent from the floor.
"We're not playing with any energy offensively, and we had one thing we could do offensively tonight: Throw Dwight the ball," Van Gundy said.
Point guard Jameer Nelson played for the first time since he came down with a stomach virus a week ago, and he struggled against his taller and stronger Portland counterpart, Andre Miller.
Miller finished with a team-high 22 points, eight assists and seven rebounds.
"We wanted that matchup," Blazers coach Nate McMillan said.
Nelson, Orlando's co-captain, sounded frustrated after the game, just like everyone else in the Magic's locker room.
"We've just got to play harder," Nelson said. "That's it. Point blank. Basically, we can't say, '[Forget] it, we're not going to play defense' or 'I'm not going to play defense because I'm not making shots.' "
To Nelson, the team's zero fastbreak points indicated that he needs to push the ball harder upcourt and that his teammates need to run harder.
Others struggled, too. Vince Carter scored only six points and missed 10 of the 12 shots he attempted. Rashard Lewis scored 11 points, and he fouled out late in the fourth quarter.
Before training camp started in late September, players and coaches met at Amway Center and had a long collective heart-to-heart talk in which they discussed what they expect from each other. They talked partly about being tougher this season.
What transpired Thursday night against Portland (11-11) was the opposite of what they had in mind.
"I would say there's a high level of frustration right now," Redick said. "I think it's to a man. Everybody's kind of searching, I guess. The bottom line is we just have to play harder and play smarter. If we do those things, we have enough in here to win."
One play summed up the night.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Miller fell as he drove toward the hoop, but he managed to pass the ball off to Wesley Matthews in the left corner.
Matthews pump-faked, got Redick to jump in the air and drove toward the basket. Matthews banked the ball in off the glass, and the Blazers had an 82-69 lead.
The Magic called a timeout, and the sellout crowd of 20,219 — almost all of them wearing the free red T-shirts they found on their chairs when the night began -- rose to its feet and cheered.
The game grew even uglier after that for Orlando (15-7).
"Guys didn't play with any toughness," Howard said. "They came out, threw a little pressure at us and we folded.
"I expect us to play better than the way we played tonight," he added later. "There's no excuse for it."
Read Josh Robbins' blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/magicblog and e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Subscribe to our Orlando Magic newsletter at OrlandoSentinel.com/joinus.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun