Trail Blazers Go Cold For Just Long Enough To Lose In Toronto

by Casey Holdahl
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TORONTO -- The Portland Trail Blazers, in the second game of a three-game Eastern Conference road trip, fell 112-106 to the Toronto Raptors Sunday night in front of a sellout crowd of 19,800 at the Air Canada Centre.

"I thought we played a very competative game against a very good team in their place," said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. "We had a lot of guys do a lot of good things but in the end... it came down to the last couple minutes and (Toronto) made the plays. Toronto is going to be a good team in the playoffs and it's disappointing to lose a game but I thought we competed well."

The Trail Blazers are now 24-34 overall, 10-21 on the road this season and currently sit in 10th place in the Western Conference standings, 1.5 games behind the Denver Nuggets for the 8th.

Portland led by as many as 12 in the second quarter, but the Raptors would outscore the Trail Blazers 15-2 over the final four minutes of the first half to take a 53-52 lead into the intermission. Toronto would extend that run to 21-2 in the third quarter before Maurice Harkless scored Portland's first field goal in over six minutes of play at the 9:48 mark.

"I think that we did have some good looks but it was a combination of them making shots and us missing shots," said CJ McCollum. "I think overall, just got to continue to stick with it, try to limit the turnovers that lead to easy baskets and try to take advantage of transition, take advantage of missed shots, push tempo and not have to call sets every play. When you're not getting stops and you've got to call sets every play, it makes the game a lot more difficult."

The Trail Blazers would manage to overcome the terrible finish to the first half, not to mention a slow start to the second half, by the end of the third, cutting Toronto's lead back to two points before the start of the fourth. But the Trail Blazers, as has been the case for most of the 2016-17 season, were never able to get enough stops in the final 12 minutes to come away with the road win.

"Coming off last game (in Orlando) where we had a close one that we was able to do what we needed to do -- obviously not the same level of team -- it's hard to do it two times in a row. I know we're a fouling team but it seemed like everything we did, they was going to the line. That's hard to play against. You try not to foul and then you give them an easier look at the rim. And then you try to be physical and you try to play how we have to play against this level of players and it just seemed like they kept going to the line time after time after everything. It's tough."

The Trail Blazers were led by Lillard, who went 10-of-20 from the field to finish with 28 points, eight assists and six rebounds in 36 minutes. Harkless had one of his best offensive performance of the season, despite having the task of checking DeRozan for much of the game, and finished with 19 points on 7-of-9 shooting and five rebounds.

Al-Farouq Aminu, who returned to the lineup Sunday afternoon after missing the last two games with a left knee sprain, added 13 points on 3-of-6 shooting from the field and 6-of-6 shooting from the free throw line whie also grabbing eight rebounds. CJ McCollum went 6-of-19 from the field for 17 points and Jusuf Nurkić added eight points and four rebounds while also getting two teeth knocked out while fighting for a fourth-quarter rebound.

The Raptors were led by DeRozan, who went 9-of-16 from the field and 15-of-16 from the free throw line to finish with 33 points and six rebounds 36 minutes.

"That's the crazy thing: (DeRozan) had 33 and I thought we did a good job on him. That's a credit to him. He's an exceptional player, he makes tough shots. I thought our traps on pick-and-rolls were effective but he has a knack for scoring. He plays at his own pace, he doesn't get flustered. When the ball comes to him he's able to make things happen. His ability to get to the free throw line was certainly a factor."

Recently-acquired forward Serge Ibaka put up a double-double of 18 points and 190 rebounds while Jonas Valanciunas added 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting and seven rebounds.

Cory Joseph, starting in place of the injured Kyle Lowry, went for 14 points and six assists in 32 minutes and Delon Wright added 11 poins in 16 minutes off the bench.

Next up, the Trail Blazers wrap up the three-game trip with a tilt versus the Pistons at the Palace at Auburn Hills. Tipoff is scheduled for 3 pm.