When you think of wire to wire victories, you don't usually think of them as tough contests that the winning team have to fight tooth and nail to win. The Portland Blazers led once all game - when the score was 1-0. From that point forward, to say the Raptors took the lead and never looked back would be doing a disservice to the effort the Blazers put forward.
With two early fouls to each Bismack Biyombo and Jonas Valanciunas, the Raptors rode Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan for their first 16 points. Once the bench was introduced, the energy level went up, as it usually does. Terrence Ross and Patrick Patterson combined for 10 points in the quarter and helped the Raps to an early 37-25 lead after the first frame.
The tendency to give back leads bit the Raptors once again as the Blazers cut it to single digits in no time once the second quarter came around. Noted Raptor-killer Gerald Henderson wreaked havoc against DeMar DeRozan on both ends of the floor, as he had 6 points, 3 assists and 3 rebounds in that quarter alone. Valanciunas was an absolute beast after he came back in. He ended the half with 10 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks and was a menace on both ends of the floor. After shooting 52% in the first quarter, the Raptors cooled off greatly, only shooting 36% in the second. But having built up enough of a cushion to start the game, Toronto still led 59-51 at the break.
The second half was tightly contested the whole way through. Every time the Raptors made a bit of run to open up the lead to double digits, the Blazers got timely shots from Allen Crabbe, CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard to get them right back in the game. Defensively, they put a ton of pressure on the Raptors right at the perimeter, and when faced with players attacking the paint, they clamped down with physicality and forced the Raptors into 10 turnovers in the half.
The three-point line was kind though, as the Raps shot 12-19 on the night. Kyle Lowry was especially good, hitting 7-10 threes on the night he was announced as a participant in the three-point contest on All Star Weekend. When the Blazers got within striking distance, Lowry was there to silence the crowd at the Moda Center with timely shots of his own. After some silliness at the end of the game (sloppy turnovers, hard fouls, etc.), the Raptors hung on to take this one 110-103.
- Lowry was fantastic tonight. 30 points (10-19 FG), 8 assists, 6 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks. He was everywhere.
- DeRozan played through some tough physical defence, still putting up 29 points (11-25 FGs), 4 assists and 5 rebounds. It was encouraging to see him continue to attack the paint despite not getting a favourable whistle tonight.
- Patterson and Ross were a +19 and +11 respectively on the night. Ross' emergence as a tertiary scorer on the bench unit has been absolutely massive for this squad as they deal with injuries. Ross had 12 points tonight, Patterson had some more stellar defence.
- The referees let this game get out of hand. I'm not one to complain about referees, but they unfairly swallowed their whistles tonight. The Blazers guards were hand checking all game, and when the Raptors got into the paint, they didn't make it out without taking a beating. It all culminated in Biyombo getting absolutely hammered at the end of the game.
- The Blazers are a decent team. Crabbe, McCollum, Lillard and Aminu all impressed me tonight for various reasons. They have a ton of length on the wing. If they can find some size and rim protection at the 4/5, this team should be in the running for the playoffs again. Nice job by Terry Stotts.