Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Trail Blazers @ Raptors: Game 60

Game 2 of the five-game road trip takes Portland (33-26) up to the Great White North to take on Toronto (31-24) for the first time this season. The Trail Blazers are 2-1 in their last three trips to the Air Canada Centre, with each game being a nail-biter, decided by an average of six points. After spraining his ankle in last night's win over New Jersey, Marcus Camby has been officially ruled out for the game tonight. No, it is not all doom and gloom though Blazer fans. The same ankle sprain is going to keep superstar forward, Chris Bosh, out of the lineup for the Raptors as well. I don't think you could find many Trail Blazer fans who wouldn't make that trade-off for tonight.
The biggest key tonight for Portland will be defense. Toronto is the NBA's 4th highest scoring team at 104.67 per night, and the Trail Blazers are only 4-14 when allowing their opposition to reach the century mark. Without Bosh and his 24.5 points a night, there should be no excuses in allowing Toronto to come anywhere near 100 tonight. Missing their only interior post presence, look for the Raptors to bombs away from downtown, as they are 4th best in the league, shooting 37.5% as a team from three. Toronto possesses five players, with at least 100 or more attempts from three, who shoot the 3 ball at, at least a 36% clip. Former Blazer Jarrett Jack is tops on the Raptors, shooting 41.2%, backup Jose Calderon isn't far behind with his 40.8%, sharp shooter Marco Belinelli is at 38.2%, our friend Hedo Turkoglu is accurate 37.4% of the time, and rounding out the top 5 is former #1 overall pick, Andrea Bargnani, who nails 36.7% from distance. Needless to say, if Portland doesn't show enough effort or gets sloppy on their rotations, it will be a long night in Canada.
Everything the Blazers should do tonight should be to exploit the absence of Chris Bosh. After his dominating performance last night over the Nets, Portland should not only feed Aldridge to start the 1st and 3rd quarters, but continue to ride him at the end of quarters. For whatever reason, we go inside to him, it works, then we simply go away from him. For the Raptors, the choice of who to defend LaMarcus with is slim pickings to say the least. All of their available bigs are either soft or short. I would assume Bargnani will get the call on LA, but he could see Patrick O'Bryant, Reggie Evans, or Rasho Nesterovic on him throughout the game. If LMA is hitting his shots in the post, attacking the basket, and drawing double teams, there should be no way the team loses tonight. Again, it is very imperative to cut to the hoop when the inevitable double team heads towards Aldridge. Toronto may even try a trapping style of defense to throw the Blazers off their game in hopes of forcing some early turnovers.
The keys to the game are no different than they were last night. Whenever you are playing an inferior team on the road, you must respect but never fear your opponent. Last night the Blazers played above the level of competition for 2 quarters, then let up, thinking the Nets would roll over and die. If the Blazers come out like they did against the Lakers when they found out Kobe was out and figured it'll be easy, it's going to be a quick loss. Along with taking the Raptors seriously (without Bosh), they'll need to limit second chance points, turnovers, and fast break points. Just like the Nets, make the Raptors earn everything they get from the perimeter, only make sure to always challenge the shot, unlike last night's ball game.
After a pessimistic outlook to start the road trip in Jersey (can you blame me after the Jazz loss?), I am optimistic about Portland's chances to get a nice 2-0 start to their five-game road trip tonight. The main reason of optimism has to due with our two superstars, Roy and Aldridge, finally appearing to be on the same page. Anytime you have a guy like Roy healthy, you are always going to be in the game, with his ability to always hit game changing shots or getting to the foul line to stop the bleeding. Jarrett Jack is a pretty stocky point guard and a decent defender, which could limit Dre's scoring ability tonight, but again, the bench could be huge tonight. If at least one of our bench scorers are on, we'll get it done. Whether it is Bayless attacking the rim, Dante knocking down mid-range jumpers off of the pick and pop, Webster draining 3's off of kick outs, or Rudy making plays happen in transition.
Game 60 Prediction: Trail Blazers 97 Raptors 92
Post-Game Thoughts
"Start the bus up, let's go," Howard said to Nate McMillan, embracing his coach to celebrate Portland's 101-87 victory over the Toronto Raptors.
In recent typical Trail Blazers fashion, the team raced out to a 17 point lead, 51-34, with 3:40 left to go in the half. In a bat of an eye, Toronto had probably the quickest 13-2 run my eyes have ever seen. Although this three-game trend of getting more than comfortable leads, only to allow the opponent back into the thick of the game is a major red flag, credit must be given to the Blazers for weathering the storm and finishing the game out strong in the form of a 101-87 victory.
Without Bosh, the Raptors did indeed bombs away from downtown, going 7-20 which is lower than their seasonal average by about 2%. Early on the Blazers were a little slow to put a hand up on the 3-point attempt, but as the game wore on, the defensive intensity on the perimeter increased. As great as the bench was and Andre's near triple double will get the attention, it was the defense which was the catalyst to another road victory. Portland had to keep Toronto from sniffing the century mark, and they did by only giving up 87 points, which broke a streak of double digit 100+ point games by the Raptors. Also, the Blazers, outside of one series in the 3rd quarter, did a great job of holding the Raptors to one shot and one shot only as Toronto only was able to grab 9 offensive rebounds. The last facet of the game Portland had to control were the easy points off of the fast-break, which the Raps were held to a respectable 14 points. Portland laid out the blue-print for how to beat a team without their superstar by limiting cheap, easy buckets for Toronto and continued to take care of the ball at an amazing clip. One night after committing only 4 turnovers, the Blazers only coughed it up 6 times.
Aldridge did not have the type of game I expected against a soft Raptors front-court, only scoring 9 points on 4-12 shooting an only grabbing 2 rebounds. No reason to worry though as the Blazer bench stepped up and rose to the occasion. Rudy Fernandez played by far his best game of the season, going off for 17 points (6-9), an unexpected 7 rebounds, and 3 assists in a confidence-building 32 minutes. This is the Rudy fans have been hoping and waiting for. He was brilliant in the open court, including a tribute to Dr. J with his reverse lay-up and hitting back-breaking three after back-breaking three to always put Uncle Mo (momentum) on the side of Portland. This performance coming on the heals of a report out of Spain speculating how unhappy Rudy is here in the Rose City. Is the report true or false? No one knows, but just keep up this type of play Rudy! Also, how nice was it to see Jerryd find his jump shot? He and Dante also provided a scoring punch scoring a combined 18 points, 11 for Bayless and 7 for Cunningham.
"I thought our bench, Rudy [Fernandez] and [Jerryd] Bayless, those guys did a nice job of coming in and providing some scoring and they had some pretty fresh legs," McMillan said. "The fact that Bosh wasn't here, we certainly tried to take advantage of that. I thought our guys got off to a good start."
"The bench was big tonight," Roy said. "I think I just try to go out and play by game to get back in shape, but I think Rudy and Bayless played huge off of the bench. If they can play that well, they'll make my job a lot easier and guys can't kill me as much."
I can not wait until next year. Give Andre Miller a completely healthy team and the Blazers will be the top threat to dethrone L.A. in the West. He has a calming presence over the team and take a lot of the burden off of Roy. Dre had a near triple-double tonight with 18 points (8-14), 10 assist, and 7 rebounds. Whenever we needed a basket, Dre was there with the lay-up or post up jump shot. Toronto got the lead as low as one point, but Miller always had an answer either with his scoring or finding an open teammate for a good look.
Official Game Photos
Box Score


  1. Jack has been excellent for them. They win 2/3 of their games since he got that starting spot.

    And Hedo has been complete dogshit, which pleases me immensely after his about-face on us to pursue a better shopping district for his wife/boss.

  2. lol KneeJerk, couldn't agree more. JSquared has done great things for this Raptors team, I couldn't be more happy for him!

    And I love that Hedo is now saying that he wishes he would've signed with Portland. Karma is a biatch Hedon't, that's what you get when yo listen to your wife who only cares about the shopping scene, not the NBA scene.

    Great win tonight for our boys though. We allowed Toronto one too many open shots which was disappointing since they're known for living and dying by the three but it was good to see us pull out the W in the end.

  3. Anna-
    Where did you here about Hedo and wishing he would have signed in Portland?

  4. Mike and Mike mentioned it during the broadcast last night.

  5. And I love that Hedo is now saying that he wishes he would've signed with Portland

    LMAO..the one thing u should never do as a fan is LIE. And that's exactly what ur oing by writing that...Hedo LOVES Toronto so GTFO.

  6. Yeah, I heard it from Mike & Mike during the broadcast.

    Whoa anonymous, lol don't shoot the messenger. I report it how I hear and see it ;-)