It was a valiant effort by the Toronto Raptors, but on Sunday afternoon, but it just wasn't enough to overtake the Portland Trail Blazers in extremely competitive matchup at the Air Canada Centre.
Despite some late game heroics by Rudy Gay, the Trail Blazers outlasted the Raptors 118-110.
The Blazers got a balanced scoring attack that saw five different players score in double figures. LaMarcus Aldridge led the way with 25 points and 11 rebounds while sophomore sensation Damien Lillard matched those 25 points and added 8 assists and some clutch baskets down the stretch of regulation for good measure. Lillard also went 3-for-3 in the extra frame.
On the Raptors side of things, DeMar DeRozan had another masterful offensive performance, pouring in 29 points on 11-of-17 shooting. Likewise, Gay also had a strong afternoon, scoring 30 points and grabbing a team-high 10 rebounds. On the down side, those two combined for three assists - all of which were recorded by DeRozan.
Defensively, this game was a mess from the get-go for both squads. Both teams got pretty much anything they wanted in the first quarter - Portland shot 57 percent and Toronto shot a whopping 63 percent from the floor. Valanciunas led the Raptors with 11 of his 19 points in the opening quarter.
This trend continued through the second quarter and into the third.
With 5:41 left in the third quarter, the Blazers went on a 11-4 run, pushing their lead to double-digits for the first time in the game. Portland continued this run, pushing the lead to 17 in the fourth.
Just wen it appeared the game was out of reach, the Raptors made a push going on a run of their own - 19-6 including a buzzer-beating layup by Gay that tied the game and sent it into overtime.
Three-point shooting ended up being the biggest story of the game. The Blazers made a season-high 15 three-point shots on just 32 attempts. The Raptors made just three and were without a three-pointer until the 7:42 mark of the fourth quarter.
Ultimately, this was a positive game for the Raptors. Portland is a very talented team and are as good at their 8-2 record would seem to dictate. Obviously, defense was an issue. For the second time in as many games, Toronto struggled to get out on shooters and Portland made them pay.
On the positive side of things, for the first time this season, both DeRozan and Gay had strong offensive outputs. Granted, Portland was not stopping anybody on their way to the rim
Valanciunas also had perhaps his best game of the season. He was impressive in the post against a solid defender in Robin Lopez and proved to be a threat in the pick and roll. Defensively, he is still a work in progress, but overall he played a strong game.
The Raptors will now travel to Philadelphia where they will take on the surprise 76ers in what is a very winnable contest for Toronto.