Through 14 games, Toronto is sitting at .500 with a 7-7 record. With the return to ScotiaBank Arena this season, it would seem — considering this squad is one of the younger teams in the league — that the players would feel much more comfortable at home after spending the whole of the 2020-21 season in Tampa. Instead, it’s the opposite. The Raptors are just 2-6 at home, with the only wins coming against the Magic and Pacers.
Normally this would brew trouble for a young team. However, despite an early season injury to Pascal Siakam that made him miss the first 10 games, Toronto has been able to float around the .500 mark thanks in part to their impressive road record. The Raptors are 5-1 on the road with some early season statement wins against division rivals in the Sixers, Knicks, and Celtics. The next six games offer a different challenge: after tonight, they head to Salt Lake City to play Donovan Mitchell and the Utah Jazz, have a back-to-back against the Sacramento Kings, then face Steph Curry and the league leading Golden State Warriors... and then they close with the young and exciting Memphis Grizzlies before one East coast stop against the Indiana Pacers.
Tough task ahead. The contest for tonight is no pushover either. Even with a chance Damian Lillard sits out with an abdomen issue, Portland boasts a 5-1 home record. Their dynamic backcourt of CJ McCollum, former Raptor Norman Powell, and Anfernee Simons are all capable of filling in if Lillard is absent. Here are the details for tonight’s game.
Where to Watch:
TSN, 10:00PM EST
Toronto – Goran Dragic, Gary Trent Jr, Scottie Barnes, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam
Portland – Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Norman Powell, Robert Covington, Jusuf Nurkić
Toronto — Fred VanVleet (groin – questionable), Precious Achiuwa (shoulder – questionable), Chris Boucher (back – questionable), Yuta Watanabe (calf – OUT)
Portland – Damian Lillard (abdomen – probable)
Spicy P is back
After a few games finding his rhythm, Pascal Siakam has shown himself as the all around star we’ve learned to love. In just his third game this season, Siakam had a 25 point, 11 rebound, 7 assist outing on 9-14 shooting. When the offense stuttered, it was Siakam that would make something happen. With the shot clock running low on three possessions, Siakam hit two midrange and one three-pointer. Down the stretch, it was him again who made the timely baskets.
Despite the loss, it’s good for Toronto to have many different options to go with down the stretch. OG Anunoby a few nights earlier in Philadelphia made some great passes to VanVleet and Trent Jr. to put the game away. Fred VanVleet showed some great leadership in the near come-from-behind win against Chicago. It’s a good spot to be having three different players who can take you home. It was in this arena last season that Siakam had a game winner roll out. Hopefully tonight we see him redeem himself if it comes down to it.
The trade: 235 days later
It was on March 25, 2021 when Raptors traded Norman Powell for Gary Trent Jr. and Rodney Hood. Now 235 days later, both players are fitting in seamlessly. Powell, who has been asked to play alongside Lillard and CJ McCollum, has been picking his spots and playing efficiently. He’s shooting 46% from long range on five attempts per game. Powell, who was rewarded with a 5 year/$90 million contract, is doing everything that has been asked of him.
The man he was traded for is doing just as well. Gary Trent Jr. has been a menace defensively, one of the league leaders in deflections and steals while hitting timely, self-created shots. While the Raptors gave him a somewhat of a prove-it deal, he’s been stepping up. It hasn’t been a year yet but I can say this is one of the few win-win deals.
Time for adjustments
It’s no surprise there is an adjustment period for the players when new rules and basketballs are used. For some, like former MVP’s Steph Curry and Kevin Durant, they saw no effects to their games. But for others, like Damian Lillard and James Harden, they’ve found it difficult to hit their strides. While Lillard has improved in his last four games, averaging 25 points, 6.5 assist on 48% from the field after a four-point shocker against Indiana, he is still finding his rhythm.
"It's unacceptable, man."— Pickswise (@Pickswise) November 10, 2021
Damian Lillard had something to say about how the refs are officiating the games this season. pic.twitter.com/ozSdSmKZKB
Whether it’s a new ball, new coach, or referees swallowing their whistles, this is a different Damian Lillard we are seeing. The adjustment period should be coming to an end. After sitting on Sunday with the abdomen issue he’s been dealing with since the Olympics, he’s due for an explosion. Will it be tonight or sometime on their four-game homestand? We’ll see.