It was a game of two very different halves and an unbelievable effort from the Raptors newest All-Star DeMar DeRozan wasn’t enough to overcome a bad start and Portland escaped with a 106-103 victory.
Coming into Portland after playing the Nuggets the night before, the Raptors were flat in the opening half. Missing open shots and playing fast and loose at the defensive end. The Trail Blazers poured in 57 points behind a first half 18 point 11 rebound double-double from their All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge and their other All-Star, Damian Lillard, scored 15 points. The Raptors shot just 35 percent from the field and were out rebounded 28-19 as they headed into the break down 17 points.
Amir Johnson was ineffective guarding Aldridge as his sore ankle didn’t permit him the mobility required to cover one of the NBA’s top scoring power forwards and a combination of Chuck Hayes and Patrick Patterson had to take over. Lillard seemed to be able to breeze through the Raptors defense at will in the first half and was uncharacteristically efficient in the paint.
Toronto undoubtedly missed the flu-bug bitten Greivis Vasquez off the bench as the seldom used Julyan Stone had to be pressed into service and Lowry played 44 minutes. Toronto’s effective 2 point guard lineup of Vasquez and Lowry simply wasn’t available.
The Raptors were down by 19 points 4.5 minutes into the third quarter, but then momentum swung in Toronto’s favor. The Raptors closed to within 5 points before Lillard and Mo Williams hit a pair a three-pointers and Portland headed into the final frame up 83-74.
A fourth quarter surge by the Trail Blazers to bring the lead back to 16 points only delayed the Raptors comeback as Toronto held Portland scoreless for 4 minutes and 50 seconds and took a 103-102 lead with 25.4 seconds left on a pair of DeRozan free throws.
Lillard hit the winning runner with 11 seconds left and DeRozan dribbled the ball off his foot on the Raptors final chance.
The Raptors had their opportunities to win this game, but missed 4 shots in a row when they were down 102-101 before DeRozan finally got to the free throw line. Then DeRozan had two chances to drive for the winning bucket in the final seconds after Portland retook the lead, but was thwarted each time.
After a very quiet 6 points in the first half, DeRozan scored 30 points and collected 10 dimes in the second half as he set a career-high with 12 assists in the game. DeRozan was the Raptors offense in the second half. According to Elias, ‘DeRozan is the only player in the last 10 seasons with 30 points and 10 assists in a half.’
The Raptors All-Star snub Kyle Lowry had 12 points and 3 assists in the first half and 11 points and 5 assists in the second half as Toronto’s only steady performer in this game. Jonas Valanciunas contributed 18 points and Patterson had 13 points and 9 rebounds in the loss.
Aldridge continued his strong play in the second half to finish with 27 points and 15 rebounds. Lillard almost disappeared after half except for the game winning bucket as he ended up with 21 points and 7 assists. Nicolas Batum contributed 18 points and Wesley Matthews had 21 points.
The Raptors continue on their long Western Conference road trip with a stop in Utah on Monday.
The Trail Blazers start a road trip of their own in Washington on Monday.
Also check out:
Raptors Jonas Valanciunas: Beyond The Hype
“I have learned a lot and I’ve had good times and bad times, but everything – I am taking like a lesson and trying to get positive things from every situation,” Valanciunas said. “I think I have learned a lot and still have a long ways to go. A lot to learn and I don’t know a lot of things – I am still learning. I am still a young player.”