There’s been major changes to the Blazers’ roster since they last met in January, most notably due to the departure of mainstays Damian Lillard and Jusuf Nurkic, along with the handful of guys that left during the offseason.
The unfortunate early-season injury to Anfernee Simons that will have him sidelined for 4-6 weeks leaves a fairly young group, led by Jerami Grant, with a fairly large gap to fill. They are still looking to find themselves and their identity, struggling with turnovers and one of the worst defensive ratings in the league.
The Raptors will look to capitalize on Portland’s troubles to end their recent slump following the tough losses against the Chicago Bulls and Philadelphia 76ers that have already started to kick up questions about the team’s cohesion and offence. The biggest issue without question is scoring, as the Raptors face having the third-worst offensive rating in the league.
On Saturday in the matchup against Philly, the Raptors looked as though they had shaken the offensive struggles by making all 7 of their 3pt attempts in the first quarter to go up 36-27 against the Sixers. The tide slowly turned though, and with the combination of shooting 43% from the field and their inability to contain Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey who both put up 34 points each, the Raptors found themselves with their second loss in as many nights.
Portland has also had their fair share of struggles, starting the season 0-3 with their most recent loss also being handed to them by the Sixers. At the half the game felt somewhat close, but going into halftime the momentum shift was obvious and the second half saw the Blazers outscored 60-38.
Both teams have faced major changes with their roster and building a new offensive system is going to take some time to adjust. To the Raptors benefit though, they have more experience on their roster that can help them make the plays to hopefully overcome a Blazers team that is still looking for their first win of the season.
The details for the game are as follows:
How to Watch:
TSN, at 7:30PM ET
Toronto: Dennis Schroder, Gary Trent Jr., Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, Jakob Poeltl
Portland: Matisse Thybulle, Jerami Grant, Deandre Ayton, Shaedon Sharpe, Scoot Henderson
Portland: Ish Wainwright (calf), Anfernee Simons (UCL)
Toronto: Precious Achiuwa (Doubtful - groin), O.G. Anunoby (questionable - calf), Christian Koloko (Out - Respiratory)
In order for the Raptors to ensure the victory, there are some key points to look out for:
Dictating the speed of this game is going to be important. Because the Blazers’ defence struggles at times, getting out in transition before they can set up could be a huge advantage in this game.
Late shifting of the help defence could lead to fouling and free throws that could help set the tone of the game. With inevitable turnovers from the Blazers, it will be important for the Raptors to capitalize on those possessions as they still work towards improving their set offence and shooting.
With the change in offence, there is an obvious improvement on passing for the Raptors this year, where we’re seeing them average 26.7 assists per game. This is a significant jump from the 23.9 per game last year, when they were one of the worst in the league by that measure. While this is encouraging, an unfortunate side effect of the increase in ball movement has been an increase in turnovers as well (+5 per game compared to last year).
Moving forward it’s going to be important for them to handle the rock a little bit more carefully, but especially in matchups like this one, where the opponent is a young team who can get out and run in the open court. Shaedon Sharpe already has a handful of highlight plays in transition this season, and Scoot Henderson’s athleticism could add to the issue if the Raptors can’t limit turnovers.
Be Great 4
Scottie Barnes has had a great start to the season, with some of the highlights including posting a triple-double, tying his personal best 5 blocks in a game, and shooting an efficient 56.5% to start the season. While he’s had some troubles to start the season as well, including literally dropping the ball late in the matchup with Chicago, he’s managed to get his turnovers under control in their most recent game against Philly.
It’s obvious he’s going to be a huge part of the offence this year, and he continues to be a problem for defences on post-ups. With his size and strength I’d be interested to see him continue to seek out mismatches on smaller defenders down low and pass out if he’s doubled. With the trouble that Portland is having on defence, Scottie can try and take advantage of the lack of help defence or miscommunications to help put the Raptors up.