Raptors Down Trail Blazers Behind Series of Runs
The Toronto Raptors went on a series of runs en route to downing the Portland Trail Blazers 117-105 on Sunday afternoon. The Raptors surged behind 27 points from Pascal Siakam and 22 points from Scottie Barnes in a supporting role.
Raptors head coach Nick Nurse went 11 deep in this one, and both teams saw their starting fives score in double figures. Despite solid play from the Raptors, Damian Lillard and the Blazers ate into the lead on several occasions. Unfortunately, it did not result in a comeback win.
Neither team shot particularly well from the field, as Portland barely edged Toronto 44.7%-44.0% from the floor. The offensive rebound margin was only three, but more came in the fourth quarter for the home team, helping to secure the win.
Turnovers were Rip City’s Achilles heel, as they committed 24 in the game, 10 turnovers in a crucial third quarter that widened a deficit they couldn’t recover from.
Here’s how the action went.
Toronto fielded a five-man starting rotation with no true center. This was music to the Trail Blazer’s ears. Instinctively, Jusuf Nurkic was hungry to eat, and his teammates fed him. The Raptors defense collapsed on him on his first two touches, and he made the right reads to set up Grant for a smooth left layup, then Simons for a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer. On the other end, Portland was lazy in guarding Scottie Barnes. Perhaps this was their approach outside of the scouting report. Anyway, Barnes made them pay. He went in for an 18-footer, then drilled a wide-open 3-pointer to keep Toronto close.
Out of the timeout, many Blazers took turns setting up the offense. We saw Simons start at point guard, but Josh Hart and Jerami Grant had their turns in the pick-and-roll in addition to the familiar Lillard. Pascal Siakam put on a display off the post on two occasions. North with seven minutes to go, he brought the ball up in patented Spicy P fashion, then went between his legs to get to his place at center post, and rose with a purpose to get the friendly bounce from 10 feet out. Siakam forced a timeout at the 4:38 mark with a beautiful sequence where he put his defender in a spin cycle, turning the baseline to free himself for a nice gimme at the rim high off the glass.
Defense led to offense when play resumed as Drew Eubanks channeled the spirit of Ben Wallace and blocked a Christian Koloko dunk attempt, blocked another chance, ran the floor hard and filled the lane, all leading to a 3-pointer. for Shaedon Sharpe who was smooth as butter. Both teams used dribble hand-offs and curls from the free throw line extended to facilitate their offense. They both maintained man defenses throughout, except for the final minute where Toronto went into what appeared to be a 1-3-1 zone, ending an exciting first quarter.
You’d never think Pascal Siakam was shooting 25 percent over his last two games, as he had 13 points on 66 percent from the field. The Blazers went on a 7-0 run to end the quarter. The score was 34-27 Toronto after one.
If a 7-0 run to end the first wasn’t bad enough, a 6-0 run to begin the second quickly made it a 40-27 affair. Malachi Flynn got the hang of it, froze his defender and got to the rim for the scoop layup. Sharpe showed his youth and inexperience, driving to the basket on two of three attempts, getting blocked both times and leading to Raptors points. Flynn had the 2k fire icon under him as he came down, split the defense and lobbed a lob up to the blocks which Precious Achiuwa put into the rim with authority. Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups wasn’t happy, and how could he be?
A 2-3 Raptors zone forced a shot clock violation four minutes into the second. Gary Trent Jr. got in a hurry and hit a highly contested 3-pointer from the top of the key. Then he got the heat check next time, hitting a sidestep trifecta. At this point, the Blazers found themselves down 19 points. Lillard played passively. Grant’s airspace from deep was suffocated. Kudos to Raptors head coach Nick Nurse for watching tape, because it’s clear he had his eyes peeled in the film room. He made his players respect the Logo Lillard nickname as they went well over 30 feet to defend the all-star point guard after he hit a triple to break a cold spell.
The entire first half, Nurkic showed his hands, for all the wrong reasons. Fortunately, that didn’t stop a Portland 10-0 run that cut it to eight. It even helped them on the road, when he knocked in a Hart layup that should have been called for offensive basket interference. Toronto got comfortable with the 3-ball, which showed them no love back. Soon a Josh Hart and floater off the glass cut the deficit to three and Portland had plenty to cheer about heading into the break. To top it off, Brit AND Anunoby didn’t put enough English on the layup attempt after being fouled, but earned it back at the charity stripe. The score at the half was 58-53 Toronto.
Another 7-0 run at the start of the third put Toronto back in a comfortable lead. It’s one thing if you don’t want to guard Scottie Barnes from the 27 or 20, but leaving him without pressure inside 10 feet is inexcusable. He called in a floater by curling out of the dunk spot to the top of the restricted area, over a Nurkic who recovered late. VanVleet was the benefactor of an immediate triple that was nothing but net, reverberating throughout Scotiabank Arena.
Siakam continued to click on all cylinders, capping a Raptors run that put the lead right back at 19 points. Lillard had a nice aggressive take where he fought through contact for a layup. But Barnes came right back and fouled, which was a threat down low. Nurkic got back to his stride with two solid defensive possessions — first shadowing VanVleet baseline and going straight up to disrupt the pointer trying to reverse, then keeping his ground and forcing a miss on an Anunoby hook attempt on the right block.
Lillard tried to embarrass Koloko with a left-handed tomahawk poster, but was denied and hacked by the young big man. The Raptors went five minutes without a field goal, perfectly exemplifying their icy production through three. Koloko came down moments later and broke that cold spell with a near-poster of his own – a two-handed dunk with verve. For perhaps the first time this year, it just wasn’t Eubank’s night on defense. Each Raptor had his way on him inside.
Portland had three bench points at the end of three. Three. They were also a combined minus 63. Portland had 10 of its 19 turnovers in the quarter. Sharpe had one of those Ja Morant-esque failed highlights, getting so high on a dunk attempt that his head rose above the bottom step of the backboard and his arm 12 feet high. Simons hit a desperation heave at the buzzer from 35 feet out to make it an 89-74 affair heading into the fourth.
Dame Dolla mounted a 13-5 comeback run early in the fourth, fueled by two deep trifectas. He made sure to mean mugs when he trotted to the bench after a timeout in Toronto. Then Lillard gave Anunoby his fifth foul and an and-one floater on his head to bring the deficit to five points. The next time down, Josh Hart took it 80-plus feet for a rack attack. VanVleet was the Freddy of Portland’s turnaround nightmare, as a missed layup from Lillard led to a 3-pointer by the Raptor guard, reviving the crowd.
Gary Trent Jr. got his late in the quarter, when Siakam drove in and dumped a bounce pass to him in the corner, which he took to the middle of the floor for a mid-range jumper. Driving to the basket late, Lillard tried to kick out to Simons after leaving his feet, but it fell right into Trent Jr.’s hands. Toronto came back down and Anunoby hit a 3-pointer from the right wing that put the nail in the coffin.
In desperation, Portland faced a seven-point deficit with about two minutes remaining. Simons got shifty with a crossover and converted a high-arc layup to cut it to five. Going the other way, an offensive rebound from Barnes gave Siakam a freeway to the rim, and an exit to the free throw line, doing Simons’ job. Another offensive rebound with just under a minute left led to a Koloko deuce, and a Nurkic offensive foul from an illegal screen put the coffin in the ground.
This marks Portland’s second three-game losing streak in the last nine contests. They will return to the Moda Center on Tuesday to face the young and struggling Orlando Magic at 7:00 PM PT.
The Trail Blazers are now No. 9 in the Western Conference and are in danger of falling to No. 12 as they hold a 0.5-game lead over the Utah Jazz, Minnesota Timberwolves and Los Angeles Lakers. They will look to right the ship and move back up to the No. 6 seed on Tuesday. They are currently a game back.
Stay tuned for extended analysis, coming next time!