Trail Blazers Face Defending Champs Sunday In Second Restart Scrimmage

by Casey Holdahl
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After over a few months of solo workouts in Tualatin and few weeks of team workouts in Orlando, the Trail Blazers feel good about their preparation in advance of their first “seeding” game, scheduled for July 31 versus the Memphis Grizzlies. But as you would expect after a four-month layoff, there is still work yet to be done.

“We haven’t been perfect, but I think as far as being ready to play, we’re ready to play,” said Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard after practice in Orlando Saturday afternoon. “The only thing left for us to do is just get out there and get that game experience, I guess, because we haven’t played in so long. The only way to truly knock that rust off is to get out there and play, so I think that’s the next step for us.”

Lillard and the Blazers will have an opportunity to cast off some of that rust with a scrimmage versus the Toronto Raptors Sunday afternoon at the Visa Athletic Center on the ESPN Wide World of Sports campus located on the ground of Disney World Orlando. Tipoff is scheduled for 3 p.m.

Sunday’s exhibition is Portland’s second scrimmage in Orlando after losing 91-88 to the Pacers Thursday afternoon. But in that contest, Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts opted to play two units -- starters and bench -- rather than mixing up his rotations. That will change Sunday versus the Raptors.

“It’ll depend on the availability of Hassan (Whiteside) and see how we’re doing from a health standpoint, but I won’t be platooning,” said Stotts. “I’ll be rotating players in like a normal game, but I haven’t made a decision on the number of minutes for the starters.”

Considering they’re 3.5 games behind the Grizzlies -- not to mention tied with both the Pelicans and Kings -- the Blazers won’t have much room for error, if any, if they’re to find themselves in the playoffs after their eight seeding games in Orlando. So getting up to speed quickly is a must, and it sounds as if they’re close to where they want to be come July 31, though a few more scrimmages, including Sunday’s versus the defending NBA Champs, should give them a better sense of what they might need to address.

“Right now, I think we’ve been sharp in practice,” said Lillard. “We’ve had good practices, done a lot of things well on both ends of the floor, they’ve been high energy. It think the next step is to play games and then come back and watch film and make corrections from there.”

SERIES NOTES

ALL TIME: Trail Blazers lead, 29-18
IN PORTLAND: Trail Blazers lead, 15-8
AT THE RAPTORS: Trail Blazers lead, 14-10
LAST PORTLAND WIN: 101-99, 1/7/20 (Toronto)
LAST RAPTORS WIN: 114-106, 11/13/19 (Portland)
CURRENT WIN STREAK: One (Portland)

GAME NOTES

• The Trail Blazers and Raptors split the season series in 2019-20, 1-1.

LAST MEETING: The Trail Blazers defeated the Raptors in Toronto on Jan. 7, 101-99. Carmelo Anthony made the game-winning shot with 3.3 seconds remaining to seal the victory. Anthony finished with a game-high 28 points (10-17 FG, 5-8 3-PT, 3-3 FT) to go with seven rebounds, one assist and two steals. Kyle Lowry led the way for the Raptors with 24 points (7-23 FG, 4-16 3-PT, 6-7 FT), four rebounds and 10 assists. It was Portland's first win at Toronto since March 15, 2015.

• Damian Lillard recorded 20 points (5-11 FG, 4-7 3-PT, 6-6 FT), four rebounds, nine assists and two blocks against the Raptors on Jan. 7. In two games against Toronto this season, Lillard averaged 14.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, 9.5 assists and 2.0 blocks.

• Hassan Whiteside logged 14 points (7-13 FG), 16 rebounds, four assists and seven blocks against the Raptors on Jan. 7. He is the only player to hit those statistical thresholds in a game this season and the first to do so since Spencer Hawes did so for the 76ers in 2013.

• Anfernee Simons scored 17 points (6-11 FG, 3-8 3-PT, 2-2 FT) to go with one rebound and one assist against the Raptors on Nov. 13.

• Pascal Siakam had 36 points (15-of-28 FG, 4-7 3-PT, 2-3 FT), six rebounds and three assists against the Trail Blazers on Nov. 13. He missed the Jan. matchup with a groin strain.

• Fred VanVleet recorded 30 points (10-16 FG, 4-6 3-PT, 6-6 FT), four rebounds, seven assists, two steals and a block against Portland on Nov. 13. It marked the third game of 30-plus points in his career.

INJURY NOTES

After sitting out the first scrimmage with a sore left Achilles, Hassan Whiteside practiced on Saturday, though his availability for Sunday’s scrimmage is to be determined.

Nassir Little (concussion) is advancing in the NBA’s concussion protocol, though his status is also to be determined. However, given the nature of the concussion protocol, one would expect that sitting out Sunday’s scrimmage is the most likely course of action.

Rodney Hood (left ruptured Achilles tendon) is not with the team in Orlando and will not participate in any scrimmages nor games the rest of the season. Trevor Ariza (personal reasons) and Caleb Swanigan (personal reasons) are not with the team and will not play in Orlando.

BROADCAST NOTES

Sunday’s scrimmage can be seen locally on NBC Sports Northwest with Jordan Kent, Lamar Hurd and Brooke Olzendam calling the action. Travis Demers and Michael Holton will have the call on Rip City Radio 620 AM and on all of the stations on the Deschutes Brewery Trail Blazers Radio Network.

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