Game Preview: Raptors vs. Trail Blazers

Holly MacKenzie - Raptors.com

The Portland Trail Blazers are in Toronto to take on the Raptors on Sunday evening. Portland is coming off a 112-103 victory against the Orlando Magic on Thursday. The Raptors are fresh off a 107-97 comeback victory against the Boston Celtics on Friday thanks to a a career-high 43 points from DeMar DeRozan.

Tip-off: 6:00 P.M. ET

Broadcast info: SN1 / TSN1050

TALKING POINTS

DeRozan on fire

The Raptors were down an All-Star on Friday against the Celtics, but their other All-Star, DeMar DeRozan, came up with a career-high 43 points in a comeback win. DeRozan was fantastic against the Celtics, shooting 15-for-28 from the floor and a perfect 12-for-12 from the free throw line as he helped make up for Kyle Lowry’s absence. Lowry missed the game with a sore right wrist. His status for Sunday’s game is unknown.

P.J. Tucker enjoyed getting the chance to watch DeRozan’s offensive explosion as his teammate, rather than being the defender trying to slow him down.

“It’s perfect,” Tucker said. “I told him, ‘It felt good not to have to chase you around.’ It felt good to see him get going tonight and be on the same side.”

Getting familiar

Friday’s game against the Celtics was Toronto’s first chance to get new Raptors Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker in the lineup. Both had fantastic debuts against Boston.

“[They did] a little bit of everything, especially in the second half,” DeMar DeRozan said. “With Serge, short rolling, spacing out the floor, felt the lane being a lot more open. And just the toughness that P.J. brought in that second half, especially in fourth-quarter, rebounding, and bringing that physicality.”

Ibaka started alongside DeMarre Carroll, Jonas Valanciunas, DeRozan and Cory Joseph, playing 36 minutes. He scored 15 points on 7-for-12 field goals while also grabbing seven rebounds to go with a steal and a blocked shot. The Raptors were a +16 when Ibaka was on the floor.

Tucker played 29 minutes, including the entire fourth quarter despite having pulled an all-nighter following the news of the trade and then flying on a red-eye to Toronto. His defensive intensity was instrumental in the second half as the Raptors claws back from a 17-point deficit and held the Celtics to just 42 second-half points. Tucker finished with nine points, a team-high 10 rebounds, an assist and three steals, two coming in that decisive fourth quarter.

“I don’t believe in adjustment periods,” Tucker said after Friday’s game. “I think good players learn how to play with each other. You talk through it and make adjustments throughout the game.”

Just playing ball

Although Tucker went through his first practice with his new team on Saturday, there’s still plenty to learn for he and Ibaka. With limited practice and shootaround times following the trades, the duo are relying largely on instinct until they’re able to get more familiar with terminology and plays on both ends of the floor.

“Yeah, we just played,” DeMar DeRozan said. “We just told guys, obviously we hadn't had a full practice with everybody, everybody don't know the plays, we just said, when we get stops just play. Everybody knows how to play basketball. Our main goal was to get stops and we just played. Kept it simple.”

The newest Raptors are extremely vocal on defence, a trait helping to make the transition easier.

“I talk too much,” Tucker said. “Defence is half talking. Serge talks. DeMarre talks. DeMar doesn’t talk as much, but I got him talking a little bit. The more he starts talking, his defence will be a little bit better once he gets comfortable with it. Half of it is talking, communicating. We had a couple mistakes early on when they went on that run. And I think in that second half, we kind of cleaned it up and started to feel each other out.”

While the coaching staff is working to get the new guys up to speed, the players are also doing their part to hurry up the process.

“If you’d have seen the timeouts in the second half where the coaches were talking, we had our own timeouts within timeouts,” Tucker said. “Once coach drew up the play, we were already knowing how we wanted to play certain situations, those pick-and-rolls, those pindowns, those post-ups, everything. We talked about it before coach got there.”