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Trail Blazers Deal With Injuries And Raptors

  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 5.0


    After a tough loss on Saturday, the Trail Blazers (8-12) will lace 'em up against the Toronto Raptors (4-17) in their only visit to the Rose Garden this season. This is the second game of a six game home stand for the Trail Blazers. It will tip off at 7PM on CSNNW and the game can be heard on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.

    •    The biggest storyline coming into the game this evening is the health of Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews. In their last game against the Kings, both players suffered injuries in the third quarter. Batum, who initially hurt his back against Indiana last Wednesday, injured it again after falling on a drive. Matthews, he of the league's second longest streak of consecutive games played (250), suffered a left hip contusion in the third quarter. He left the game but he came back in the fourth before hurting it again and hearing a "pop" being forced to leave the game. After Saturday's game, Batum said he will probably miss the Toronto game and was hopeful to return against the Spurs on Thursday night. The condition and mobility of Matthews' hip is apparently better and will likely be a game time decision.
    •    If Batum and Matthews don't go, it will make the work load on LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard even heavier. Towards the end of the game on Saturday, the Kings decided to pack in their defense against Lillard and Aldridge and force them to give the ball up and force the Trail Blazers supporting players to make a play. For Portland to get a win tonight without Batum and Matthews will require both monster games from Lillard and Aldridge (there's a chance as Toronto's defense is ranked 29th in the NBA) as well as big contributions from their bench, much like the ones they got in their road wins against Cleveland and Charlotte. Will Barton and Victor Claver have been recalled from Idaho after their weekend series of games in the D-League for the Stampede and they will be back on the bench for this evening's game. It will be interesting to see who Terry Stotts goes with in the starting line-up, should Batum and Matthews sit, as the hierarchy behind the two players has changed many times this season.
    •    This will be the first time Damian Lillard faces Kyle Lowry. Lowry was traded to the Raptors during the offseason from the Houston Rockets for a first round draft pick. Lowry is one of the league's best point guards and also one of the league's ultimate stat-stuffers. Despite only measuring six feet tall, Lowry averages over five rebounds a game as well as six assists, 16.8 points and 1.6 steals. Also, behind him, the Raptors have a solid veteran point guard in Jose Calderon. So, there is very little drop-off from their starting point guard to their back-up. Lillard will have a tough task defensively against both. Also, if Batum doesn't go, which it is likely he will not, there will be no safety blanket of Batum being able to switch over to guard a point guard. Lillard will have to tough it out. He somewhat of a quiet outing against the Kings, scoring only 12 points to go along with nine assists. The Trail Blazers will need him to keep getting his teammates involved but also bring a scoring punch without their third and fourth leading scorers.
    •    LaMarcus Aldridge will likely have to play a lot on the perimeter defensively against Toronto's Andrea Bargniani. Bargniani likes to step out to the perimeter a lot on and that will drag LaMarcus Aldridge away from the paint, so it will be on JJ Hickson and Portland's other players to help crash the boards. Aldridge contends that it's much easier to get rebounds when match-ed up against players who collect a lot of rebounds in the paint because they are always near the basket. Bargniani presents a different problem as Aldridge will have to respect his perimeter game. In their loss the other night, Bargniani went five for 15 so he's probably due to have a better game. On the other end, Aldridge should be able to get his. Bargniani is not known as one of the league's better defenders and the Raptors as a team are second to last in the league defensively. However, if Batum and Matthews are not a go, expect Aldridge to face a lot of double-teams. The Trail Blazers will have to knock down some open threes if they do, if they want a chance to win this game.

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