Trail Blazers Vs. Raptors Preview
February 1st, 2014
By JEFF BARTL
The Portland Trail Blazers have failed in their last two opportunities to surpass last season's win total, part of a slump they're simply taking in stride.
Portland looks to get back on track by beating the visiting Toronto Raptors for the 10th time in the last 11 meetings Saturday night.
The Blazers (33-13) are a vastly improved team from the one that finished 33-49 last season, but they've dropped four of six after falling 98-81 to Memphis on Tuesday.
Portland is averaging a league-best 108.4 points per game, but has scored fewer than 90 in its last two and shot a season-low 34.5 percent against the Grizzlies.
LaMarcus Aldridge finished with 27 points and 16 rebounds while fellow All-Star Damian Lillard added 16 points.
"We're in a rough patch right now," Lillard said. "We're not shooting the ball very well and we've got to defend better. We've played so well, we were due for a rough patch and a little bit of adversity."
Wesley Matthews had eight points on 2-of-9 shooting for Portland, which had a five-game home winning streak snapped.
"We're fine. We know we weren't going to go undefeated this season," Matthews said. "We knew we were going to lose games. It's just our job to minimize the losses, stop the bleeding and get back to our winning ways."
The Blazers enter this contest after three days off, while Toronto comes in playing the second of a back-to-back after Friday's 100-90 win over Denver. Portland has won five straight home meetings with the Raptors.
"We've played a lot of games lately. We've done a lot of traveling. No one likes to use fatigue or the schedule as an excuse, but it is a reality," coach Terry Stotts said. "We need to catch our breath, get our bodies right and be ready to play Saturday."
Toronto (25-21) is a season-best four games above .500, winning three straight and five of six. DeMar DeRozan scored 19 points and Terrence Ross added 18 against the Nuggets to begin a five-game West Coast road trip.
The Raptors' 25-point lead dwindled, but they held on for the win.
"We will take the `W,' but it was not a quality finish," coach Dwane Casey said. "I let the players know I was disappointed in the close. You can't come in and feel like you have the game won with a 20-point lead. You have to continue to execute, be strong with the ball and continue to execute defensively if you want to be serious about winning in this league."
Jonas Valanciunas and Kyle Lowry added 13 points apiece, but Lowry said Toronto can't continue to let big leads slip away. The Raptors visit Utah, Sacramento and the Los Angeles Clippers after this contest.
"We have to finish a lot better," Lowry said. "This is the NBA. Teams are going to make a run. We're not going to be negative. We won the game. But we have to finish better than that."
Toronto scored four points in the last 35 seconds of regulation to tie the last meeting with Portland, but Aldridge and Lillard had 25 points apiece to help the Blazers pull out a 118-110 overtime win Nov. 17.
The Raptors haven't won in Portland since Dec. 22, 2006.