Game Preview: Raptors @ Blazers
Holly MacKenzie - Raptors.com
Fresh off Kyle Lowry’s best performance of the season in a comeback victory against the Utah Jazz, the Raptors are in Portland to take on the Trail Blazers in the second game of a season-high six-game road trip.
Tip-off: 10 P.M. ET
Broadcast Info: SN1 / SN590
Status of Portland’s Lillard unknown
The Portland Trail Blazers fell to the San Antonio Spurs 110-90 on Friday night. Star guard Damian Lillard — averaging 27 points and 6.2 assists per game — is currently listed as day-to-day after suffering an ankle sprain midway through the fourth quarter after stepping on someone’s foot. Although ESPN’s Chris Haynes reported that X-rays were negative, Lillard’s status for Monday’s game is unknown after he left the arena on Friday night in a walking boot.
"I rolled it good,” Lillard told reporters. “I know that for a fact, but I'll do everything I can to be ready for the next one."
Blazers forward Evan Turner has missed the previous three games with a sprained ankle, but Portland hopes he will be available to return to the court for Monday’s game.
Toronto backcourt has Raptors rolling
The Raptors come to Portland after a thrilling 104-98 road victory against the Utah Jazz. Kyle Lowry had one of the best performances of the season, scoring 19 points in the fourth quarter to turn around the game and give Toronto the win. Lowry’s fourth quarter explosion came after missing much of the third while receiving two stitches above his lip. He shot an incredible 9-for-10 from the floor in the quarter, and 15-for-20 in the game.
Lowry is averaging 21.8 points (47 percent field goals) and 7.3 assists per game, but he’s been nearly untouchable over his previous 10 games. Over that stretch, Lowry is averaging 24 points while shooting a red-hot 57 percent from the floor, including 54 percent from beyond the arc.
DeMar DeRozan started the season on fire. Through games played in October and November, DeRozan averaged 31 points per game. Although his scoring has dropped to 25.8 points per contest in December, DeRozan is still shooting 48 percent from the floor on the season and the duo of DeRozan and Lowry have the Raptors on a franchise-high six-game road winning streak. As well, the Raptors have topped 100 points in 16 straight and are 13-2 over their previous 15 games.
To ask either veteran about their play is to be met with a simple answer that deflects attention away from individual performance and instead switches to the team as a whole.
“Just winning games,” Kyle Lowry said after his 36-point performance in Utah. “That’s all it’s about for us. Winning basketball games and winning as a team.”
Sullinger rehab continuing to come along
Toronto’s biggest move of the offseason was re-signing All-Star DeMar DeRozan. Second was the signing of free agent forward Jared Sullinger. The big man is yet to suit up for the Raptors in the regular season after undergoing surgery on his foot prior to opening night. Although the team has not given a hard timeline for his return, Sullinger’s rehab is coming along.
“He’s making progress,” Dwane Casey said. “I tell him I’d rather have him as player Sully than Coach Sully but I tell you what, he’s got a great basketball lQ and has some great advice. You know when guys are pulling your tail and giving you bull crap. His stuff is real, for real. Really intelligent insight into who we’re playing and how to play certain guys in certain situations. That’s been very helpful. Like I told him this is going to help him when he goes on the floor. Now he can think through certain situations.”
Sullinger has been very vocal from the bench in recent games and the same can be said for practice. Rookie Pascal Siakam, starting in Sullinger’s place since opening night, has credited Sullinger with helping him learn how to play his position and prepare for daily life in the NBA.
“[Sullinger’s] dad was a coach,” Casey said. “He knows the game within the game. He understand the game very well.”