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Raptors Force Overtime but Unable to Claw Out Victory in Portland

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Despite a playoff type atmosphere and a hard fought game, Raptors lose to the Blazers in Overtime, 102-97.

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This game was a slugfest, one in which Portland got in the last punch. From the tip-off, this game showed that there was obvious anticipation from both teams. Whether it was the two of the best teams in basketball match-up, or the head to head of Lowry vs. Lillard, the effort was there from the get go. The Raptors started the game looking to feed Jonas Valanciunas while Portland started the game with a Wes Matthews three. Neither team started off particularly hot from the field, and the misses were exacerbated by the fact that it seemed like neither team could come down with a clean rebound for the first six minutes of play. Although the first quarter basketball wasn't sloppy, it wasn't particularly well executed. The first 12 minutes featured a healthy dose of shots early in the clock, and big man battles down low. The quarter came to a close with the game tied and what felt like James Johnson having a hand in everything.

The second quarter began as the Lou Williams show and ended with yet another strong showcase for Kyle Lowry #NBABallot. From the 10:11 mark to the 7:52 mark, Lou baited McCollum into three fouls leading to five made free throws using his change of pace trickery and deceptively impressive body control. To finish the quarter, Lowry scored 10 of the Raptors final 12 points, four of which came off of offensive rebounds. Lowry's final basket of the quarter was crucial as it put the Raptors up 45-38 and stopped the momentum swing of a 7-0 Portland run.

Starting the 3rd up seven points, the Raptors continued to be the aggressors as James Johnson punished Portland for switching on the perimeter and exploited his mismatch with Damian Lillard. While the Raptors continued their relentless attack through Jonas inside, and an array of high screens involving Lou or Vasquez, Portland looked complacent as they settled for multiple long threes and twos. Despite a 6-0 run for Portland to finish the quarter, the Raptors still led by 7 heading into the final frame.

The Blazers finally made their run in the fourth on the back of Lamarcus Aldridge, tying up the game at 83 with 3:19 on the clock. Porltand went with Batum on Lowry down the stretch who was pretty effective in shutting Lowry down. Lowry attacked the basket but was unable to score or get to the free throw line. Luckily for the Raptors, they were able to force a Portland turnover on an in-bounds play, which gave them one last possession in regulation. Unable to return the ball to Lowry who was being fronted by Batum, Amir Johnson had the recognition to look for a quick score, tying the game up at 87. After a missed Lillard drive, overtime.

The extra period began with yet another case of defense leading to offense for the Raps as a Lowry steal led to a transition three for Ross. Unfortunately, this prompted a three point barrage from the Blazers as Lillard, Matthews and Batum went on to hit three consecutive shots from beyond the arc putting the Blazers up six. After a weird string of plays involving an unforced Blazers turnover, an almost clear path foul on Lillard, then a clear path foul on Vasquez, the Raptors had to play the foul game, and despite Lowry's best efforts, Toronto's potential All Star showed that even he is in fact, human as the Raptors lost 102-97.

Not for a lack of effort, Lowry finished with 25 points, 5 assists and 7 rebounds, but shot an inefficient 10-26 from the field. Unfortunately for the Raptors, Lou Williams also had a poor showing, shooting a mere 1-10 and finishing with 7 points.

Hopefully our boys from the North will get their legs back before the head to Oakland. Toronto will get to rest until the New Year when they'll travel to Golden State to face off against the best team in basketball, the Golden State Warriors. The match-up of the best teams of the respective conferences should be a great way to bring in 2015, and I for one cannot wait to see the Lowry-Curry matchup.

A Few Quick thoughts

- I would have liked to have seen either James Johnson or Jonas get some burn late in the game. Jonas went out of the game with 2:24 left in the 4th quarter and wasn't seen again. Given that the Blazers were struggling to match his physicality throughout the game, it would have been nice to see him get a chance to contribute in overtime. Similarly, whether it was Batum or Lillard, the Blazers had no answer for James Johnson, who had a double-double by the third quarter.

- Was I happy about the refereeing? No. Do I think it cost us the game? No. Although there were some questionable calls, it is important to note that the referees were consistently bad to both teams. I've seen twitter blow up about the clear path foul called against Vasquez. I'm not 100% sure on how the rule is to be interpreted, but it is clear from the replays that although Vasquez ran at Batum from out front, he made contact from behind. That play aside, we got our share of favourable calls. Need proof? Look no further than the referees missing Lowry's tackle of Steve Blake out of bounds. I'm not saying that the referees were good, but it could have been worse; at least they were equally bad to both teams.

- The result aside, lets not lose sight of how well the Raptors are playing. They beat the Clippers and then took one of the top teams in the West to overtime without DeMar DeRozan. The sky is not falling, the #wethenorth crew are playing extremely well.

Anyway, What did you guys think? I have a feeling that the refereeing will be a topic of interest.