Game 53 Preview: Portland Trail Blazers at Toronto Raptors

LaMarcus Aldridge should have a big night against the Raptors. Photo courtesy of OregonLive.com.

Blazers: 28-24

Raptors: 14-39

Game Details: Air Canada Center, Toronto, ONT. 4:00 PM. TV: CSN. Radio: KXTG (95.5 FM)

Projected Portland Starting Lineup: PG Andre Miller (#24, 6′2″, Utah), SG Wesley Matthews (#2, 6′5″, Marquette), SF Nicolas Batum (#88, 6′9″, France), PF LaMarcus Aldridge (#12, 6′11″, Texas), C Joel Przybilla (#10, 7′1″, Minnesota)

Projected Toronto Starting Lineup: PG Jose Calderon (#8, 6’3″, Spain), SG DeMar DeRozan (#10, 6’7″, USC), SF Julian Wright (#14, 6’8″, Kansas), PF Amir Johnson (#15, 6’9″, Westchester High School), C Andrea Bargnani (#7, 7’0″, Italy)

The Toronto Raptors aren’t as bad as that last team the Blazers beat on the road, but they’re not that far ahead. The other, less talked-about victim of the Miami Heat’s offseason free-agent coup has been left with a team that isn’t as spectacularly awful as the Cleveland Cavaliers, but this is certainly a team the Blazers should be able to beat fairly easily.

The Raptors don’t pose nearly the same threat in the middle that the last team the Blazers played, the Chicago Bulls, did. Andrea Bargnani is a good offensive player but doesn’t rebound nearly as well as LaMarcus Aldridge or even Joel Przybilla. The Blazers have started toying with using Nicolas Batum in the 4 spot lately, and it’s been working against smaller teams. The Raptors are one of those teams where you’re fine using him and Dante Cunningham in the frontcourt to guard.

Contrary to reports last week, we won’t be seeing Brandon Roy return to action tonight, but the Blazers should be fine. The Raptors have the same issues with their bench as the Blazers do—they’re similarly injured, and thin as it is. Jerryd Bayless, who had been flourishing in an increased role on the Raptors after being traded first from the Blazers and then from the Hornets, has struggled with injuries lately and may or may not play tonight. If he doesn’t, the Raps are left with basically Jose Calderon and DeMar DeRozan as backcourt scoring options.

The Blazers don’t need to play spectacularly to win this game—they just have to execute. The Raptors aren’t great at anything, so there should be plenty of opportunities to take advantage of weaknesses. The main area where the Raptors are a threat is on the fast break, so Portland may be forced to pick up the tempo on defense tonight. Given the way the Blazers tend to play to the level of competition lately (and I’ll go into this later this weekend), this one could be ugly. But something will be up if they don’t come away with a W.

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