Good morning everybody, and welcome to the conclusion of the NBA’s first ever rivalry week. Today we have a few matchups that are going to bring the utmost intensity.
The battle of the two best bigs in the league! The one who is constantly shafted to All NBA second team, and this year he was even thrown onto the bench of the all star team, Joel Embiid! He will be going up against the back-to-back MVP, the man who is gunning for the three-peat in that award, Nikola Jokic!
These next two teams are just one subway ride apart. One of them is arguably the most popular team in the league, with an iconic stadium and history. Even though lack of success is a common theme amongst their franchise, they are still considered a premiere team in the NBA, the New York Knicks! They will be going up against the team that is considered little brother to them, but they were proven dominant in in the 2019 off-season after Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving chose them over the Knicks, make some noise for the Brooklyn Nets!
This next game is a classic that dates all the way back to the 1950’s. No matter how good or how bad these teams are, everyone always gets up for the green vs gold, we have the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers!
Lastly, and quite possibly the most intense of all. These two teams just traded fringe starters in a swap that sent rumblings throughout the entire league in 2021. A rivalry that has been brewing for the ages, and the one that the NBA saved the best for last, the Toronto Raptors squaring off against the Portland Trail Blazers!
Where to watch:
TSN, 10:00 PM ET
Toronto Raptors — Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., O.G. Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Scottie Barnes
Portland Trail Blazers — Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons, Josh Hart, Jerami Grant, Jusuf Nurkic
Toronto Raptors — Otto Porter Jr. (Out - Foot), Dalano Banton (Questionable - Hip)
Portland Trail Blazers — Ibou Badji (Out - Knee), Josh Hart (Questionable - Hamstring), Jusuf Nurkic (Questionable - Calf), Justise Winslow (Out - Ankle)
I think it is safe to say that these two teams do not like each other. The fact that they only meet twice a year is a shame, because every time these two teams square off, it is one for the ages.
Last time Portland and Toronto squared off, just a few weeks ago, we saw a battle between two likely all stars. Damian Lillard finished with a near 34 point double-double also totalling up 8 assists. Pascal Siakam and the Toronto Raptors were too much however, as every starter finished with at least 14 points, lead by Siakam with 27.
When the NBA schedule is released, the search for the Blazers vs Raptors is on, as these two games are circled on everyone’s calendar. There is simply no other game that you would want to cap off rivalry week.
And the fact that both of these teams not only sit outside of the playoffs, but equally two spots below the play-in in their respective conferences just heightens the intensity of this battle.
One thing to always look out for with this Raptors team is their defense against big men. They have typically struggled with bigs who tower around seven-feet. Just as Jusuf Nurkic did last time these two met, pulling down 18 rebounds, you know he is hungry to lead Portland in that way again, especially since every eye across North America is going to be on this game.
We can’t forget about Pascal Siakam who is having a career year. Coming off a rough performance in last night’s loss to the Golden State Warriors, you know he is gearing up for a bounce back game against his arch-nemesis, Damian Lillard. Last night, Siakam shot 8/26, but you know against Portland, he is aiming for 24/26.
Pascal Siakam and Damian Lillard are constantly being compared. It is one of the mental battles that you have to live with if you’re a star on one of these two teams. The media and fans are always going to look at the best player on Portland and the best player on Toronto, and compare them in every way.
The January 8th game just a few weeks ago was the first time that the Raptors had beaten the Blazers since November 13, 2019. You know that was an absolutely breath of relief for Raptors fans, as these two fanbases are constantly at each other’s throats.
Tonight, the Raptors look for the first season series sweep over the Portland Trail Blazers for the first time since the 2017-18 season.
You cannot tell me that rivalry week was not created without these two in mind. There is not a matchup that I could think more suits the night-cap for such an event as this. Hopefully the fans and the NBA get what they want: Another Toronto Raptors and Portland Trail Blazers battle for the record books!