Portland is 33-13 on the season and has only lost 5 times at the Moda Center, so the 25-21 Toronto Raptors will be in tough after winning last night in Denver while the Trail Blazers had the last 3 days off. Toronto has lost to Portland in their last 5 visits here.
These 2 teams met in November before the Raptors traded Rudy Gay to Sacramento and it was Gay who forced overtime with a buzzer-beating layup. Gay had 30 points and 10 rebounds, DeMar DeRozan scored 29 points and Jonas Valanciunas had 19 points and 9 rebounds. Portland won the game 118-110 behind big performances from LaMarcus Aldridge with 25 points and 11 rebounds, Damian Lillard with 25 points and 8 assists plus 24 points from Nicolas Batum.
This version of the Raptors is dramatically different than the team Portland faced in Toronto and it isn’t easy to know what to expect. Since the Gay trade, the Raptors are 19-9 while the Trail Blazers are 16-9.
Recently, Portland has been on a bit of a slide, losing 4 of their past 6 games and Toronto has gone on a run, winning 5 of 6. However, the Trail Blazers have beaten up on Eastern Conference teams all season, going 15-2 so far. Their confidence will be high.
The 2 teams couldn’t be more different.
Toronto has developed into one of the better defensive teams in the NBA, scoring 99.3 points per game while holding their opponents to an NBA fourth best 96.5 points. They pass and rebound well and at their best, they play a very disciplined game.
Portland, on the other hand, is the highest scoring team in the NBA at 108.4 points per game. They rebound very well and have made the second most three-pointers in the league. If their shots are falling, the Trail Blazers can beat anyone. On the other end of the court, Portland is 27th in opponent’s scoring, giving up 103.4 points per game. They have given up the most two-point attempts in the league and their opponent’s shoot for a higher field goal percentage on average. It’s all about the long ball in Portland.
There is really only one way to win in Portland this season. The Raptors must defend the three-point line and their own offense had better not take the night off. The last time these 2 teams met, the Trail Blazers were 15-32 from beyond the arc and if they can repeat that performance, the Raptors will have little chance of escaping Portland with a victory.
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.”
Raptors NBA All-Star Press Release
The NBA announced Thursday that guard DeMar DeRozan has been named as a reserve to the Eastern Conference team for the 2014 All-Star Game. DeRozan is the fourth Raptor selected to the All-Star Game, joining Vince Carter (5X), Antonio Davis and Chris Bosh (5X). DeRozan will make his third appearance at NBA All-Star Weekend. He participated in the Sprite Slam Dunk in 2010 and 2011 and played in the 2011 T-Mobile Rookie Challenge.
Ujiri’s Dilemma: Raptors Veterans Are Winners
“I wouldn’t say me and the newly acquired guys are the answer,” Chuck Hayes said. “We are all just committed, that is all it is. Our chemistry is great. There are no egos in this locker room. Everybody is enjoying it. When you enjoy working together, everything falls into place.”
Therein lies Ujiri’s dilemma.