Blazers Fail To Get Full Squad On The Floor In Scrimmage Loss To Raptors

by Casey Holdahl
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Despite 21 points from CJ McCollum and a double-double from Jusuf Nurkić, the Portland Trail Blazers fell 110-104 to the Toronto Raptors Sunday afternoon at the VISA Athletic Center on the ESPN Wild World of Sports campus on the grounds of the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando.

The Trail Blazers have now lost the first two scrimmages in a three-scrimmage schedule leading up to the official restart of the 2019-20 NBA season.

With both Nurkić and Zach Collins making it through their first scrimmage with no issue after long layoffs and Hassan Whiteside returning to action after nursing a sore left Achilles, Sunday’s scrimmage was supposed to be the first time the Trail Blazers have had their full complement of players available this season, let alone in Orlando.

However, with Damian Lillard sitting out due to a sore left foot, leaving CJ McCollum to slide over to point guard and Gary Trent Jr. to start at the two alongside Carmelo Anthony, Nurkić and Whiteside, the entire Trail Blazers roster being at the ready would have to wait for another day.

But while Sunday’s scrimmage didn’t feature the Trail Blazers at full strength, it did provide an opportunity to see Nurkić and Whiteside starting in a “twin towers” lineup, a duo the team has talked about employing since the start of the Orlando training camp.

“I thought they played well,” said head coach Terry Stotts of Nurkić and Whiteside. “I thought the team played well when they were together. We got off to a slow start in the third quarter -- I think that’s probably more a team thing than those two guys together -- but it’s obviously something that we’re going to continue to look at.”

Without Lillard, who is likely to play significant minutes during Portland’s eight-game restart that, for all intents and purposes, is an eight-game playoff, on the floor to run the show, it’s hard to take too much from Sunday’s performance. With any luck, Stotts will have Lillard, Whiteside and the rest of the team available for their final scrimmage versus the Thunder on Tuesday. But according to the players, all that matters is who is available for the July 31 restart opener versus the Grizzlies.

Said McCollum: “As long as we’re healthy, we got action.”

The 6-4 Lehigh grad led all scorers with 21 points on 7-of-12 shooting to go with five assists, two rebounds and two steals in just under 25 minutes.

Nurkić, despite playing in just his second competitive competition since breaking his left leg in two places 16 months ago, looked no worse for wear Sunday afternoon, finishing with 17 points on 4-of-13 shooting from the field, 1-of-5 shooting from three and 8-of-10 shooting from the line, 13 rebounds, five assists, two blocks and two steals in 27 minutes.

Whiteside, who was limited to no more than 20 minutes in Sunday’s scrimmage, finished with six points, five rebounds and two blocks. Zach Collins, also on a 20-minute restriction (he played 21 minutes), came off the bench to relieve Whiteside and finished with seven points, five rebounds, a block and a steal.

Carmelo Anthony added 14 points on 13 shots while also logging five rebounds and two assists. Anfernee Simons pitched in 13 points off the bench.

Serge Ibaka led the Raptors with 19 points and Pascal Siakam contributed 18.

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