The Moda Center will be rocking tonight as the Portland Trail Blazers (33-13) host the Toronto Raptors (25-21). This will be the second and final meeting between the Blazers and Raptors. If the first meeting was any indication, this game is sure to please one’s offensive senses.
On November 17th, the Trail Blazers and Raptors combined for 228 points. It was a closely contested game until the Trail Blazers broke open a 17 point lead in the second half. The Raptors came surging back in the fourth quarter and their 13-2 run was capped off by Rudy Gay’s buzzer-beating lay-up that pushed the game into overtime. Ultimately Portland escaped with a 118-110 victory behind 25 points from both LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard.
That game was so long ago that it seems like last season. Lately, it seems that the Raptors are on the upswing while the Trail Blazers have struggled. The Trail Blazers earned a rare three day rest after their loss to Memphis on Tuesday. The Raptors are coming off a win last night in Denver. It will be important for Portland to find their mojo and enter the two weeks before the All-Star break on a positive note.
Portland Trail Blazers:
- No injuries to report.
- Landry Fields (wrist) had minor surgery to address a nerve issue on January 21 and will be out.
Keys To The Game
Nicolas Batum vs. DeMar DeRozan. It’s no secret that DeRozan is Toronto’s go-to player. He is averaging a team high 21.7 points and can create his own shot from anywhere on the floor. It’s also no secret who is the best defender on the Trail Blazers. Nicolas Batum has the length and ability to guard almost anyone in the NBA. He will most likely be assigned to watch DeRozan tonight. Injuries to his finger and ankle might slow Batum down but I expect him to make life hard for DeRozan.
Limit Kyle Lowry. Over the last 10 games we have seen Kyle Lowry step up his play and improve almost every one of his statistical categories. He is scoring three points better and adding one more assist than his season average. During Toronto’s three game winning streak, Lowry has averaged 25.7 points per game. Damian Lillard has one weakness in his game, defense. At times, Lillard has risen up to the competition and created havoc for opposing point guards. Lillard must limit Lowry’s offensive output by staying in front of him and creating turnovers.
Ball Movement. The Trail Blazers have failed to move the ball efficiently during their current two game losing streak. To be honest, it’s been pretty horrendous the entire month of January. The Trail Blazers started the season by going 13-2 in November but have slumped in following months going 12-4 in December and 8-6 in January. The hot start to the season was a result of swinging the ball better than any team in the NBA. They need to move the ball to create open looks and get them back on track.