Blazers Finish 4-2 Trip With Convincing Win In Toronto

by Casey Holdahl
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TORONTO -- Despite what the first half looked like, it was the Trail Blazers, not the Raptors, who were playing the last game of their longest road trip of the season.

Portland scored the first seven points of the game, went on a 15-0 run to take a 25-4 lead in the first quarter and led by as many as 34 points in the first half and withstood a furious rally in the second to secure a 114-105, wire-to-wire victory versus the Toronto Raptors Sunday night at Scotiabank Arena.

The Trail Blazers are now 20-26 overall and 6-15 on the road this season. With the win, the Trail Blazers have swept the season series 2-0 while winning their fifth-straight versus the Canadian club and finished a six-game, 12-day road trip with a 4-2 record.

“Outside of the Denver game where we obviously were really, really shorthanded, I thought it was an excellent trip,” said head Coach Chauncey Billups. “You come out, six games, we play some very quality teams on this trip and win four games. We know our road woes this year, it’s been tough to come by some wins. It was an incredible trip for us, I’m so proud of our guys. We’re just becoming a real unit.”

Between of their own hot shooting from three -- they went 6-of-11 from beyond the arc -- and Toronto only seeming casually interested in Sunday’s contest, the Trail Blazers went up 16-4 after just the first four minutes of play. The Raptors would remain stuck on four points for nearly four minutes and didn’t get their second field goal of the night until the 4:31 mark of the first quarter.

While Toronto managed to get five shots to go down before the end of the quarter, Portland still managed to double them up to take a 33-15 lead into the second. But the Blazers were even more efficient in the second quarter, going 13-of-21 from the field and 5-of-8 from three for 31 points while also holding the Raptors to 27 percent shooting and forcing seven turnovers.

With just about everything going their way, the Blazers took their largest lead of the game at 64-30 with a minute to go in the first half before heading into the intermission with a 30-point advantage.

But the Raptors, as NBA teams often do when facing large first-half deficits, came out with a different energy and urgency in the second half. They outscored the Blazers by 11 in the third to get Portland’s lead down to 21 going into the fourth.

“It’s really hard to play the right way when you’re up 30,” said Billups. “You get a little lax and I thought we did that. But not only that, they came out really, really with a sense of urgency, with some real aggressiveness and it stunned us, I thought, a little bit.”

Toronto would use a full-court press on defense while hunting three-pointers on offense to cut Portland’s lead all the way down to four with just over a minute and a half to play in regulation.

But Anfernee Simons was able to convert back-to-back threes on the next two possessions to push the advantage back to 10 with 41 seconds to play, just enough to finish off the trip with the win.

“I just knew that they were going to find a way to make it a game,” said Billups. “That’s just kind of how they play, I felt like they were running around, being aggressive, just junk the game up and speed us up and they did that. And that’s something, you don’t really practice that... You have to give them credit, they fought like crazy to give themselves a chance to win this game. And Ant hit a couple daggers.”

CJ McCollum finished with a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds while also adding six assists and two steals in 37 minutes. He has averaged 21.3 points on 46 percent shooting from the field and 48 percent shooting from three, 3.3 assists, 3.0 rebounds, 1.0 blocks and 1.0 steals in four games since returning after over a month-long abscense.

“I’d say it’s gone pretty well,” said McCollum of his return. “I’d say it’s a pretty good trip. The goal is to win games, compete, continue to build winning habits and go out there and play hard. I think we’re doing that, I think I’m doing that.”

Jusuf Nurkic posted a double-double as well, his fifth-straight, with 11 points and 11 rebounds to go along with two assists, two blocks and a steal in 31 minutes.

Nassir Little and Anfernee Simons both finished with 19 points, with the latter grabbing seven rebounds and the former dishing five assists. Ben McLemore had another strong shooting night off the bench, going 6-of-9 from the field and 5-of-7 from three for 17 points in 18 minutes.

Robert Covington went for nine points, five rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks despite dislocating his right pinkie finger in the first half. CJ Elleby contributed nine points and Trendon Watford had six points, six rebounds and three assists.

Pascal Siakam led all scorers with 28 points on 13-of-20 shooting. Fred VanVleet finished with 19 points and eight assists in 41 minutes.

The Trail Blazers now return home to host back-to-back games before heading out once again for an extended trip. First up, a tilt versus the Timnberwolves Tuesday night at Moda Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.


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