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Trail Blazers In Toronto To Face Raptors

01/02/13
  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 4.5

    BY ERIK GUNDERSEN

    After starting off the New Year with a bang last night in New York, the Trail Blazers (16-14) now must cross the border into Canada to face the Raptors (11-20) for the second, and final time this season. The Raptors have gone 7-2 in the nine games following their trip to the Rose Garden and they've done so without Andrea Bargniani. This game tips off at 4PM and will be shown on CSNNW and can be heard on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.

        •    The last game between these two teams was bizarre. The Trail Blazers went 0-20 from beyond-the-arc but still managed to win the game by 18 points, without Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews. Sasha Pavlovic logged heavy minutes in that game and played great defense on DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge dominated in the post, dropping 30 points to go along with 12 rebounds. Aldridge could be big again against the Raptors tonight. The Raptors have lots of big men but they are all very young and Aldridge exposed their inexperience. JJ Hickson also had a good game as well with 16 points and 11 rebounds. However, with Matthews and Batum going in this one, the game will be much different. Also, in the previous game, along with Bargniani going out in the first quarter, Kyle Lowry left the game at the beginning of the second half. Lowry made his return to the floor on December 28th and is expected to start at point guard. Jose Calderon played very well in his stead, even recording a triple-double on December 16th against Houston.
        
    •    The Damian Lillard tour rolls on but tonight's individual match-ups for him will require more work. Lowry is one of the most athletic point guards in the NBA and he might be the NBA's best defender at that position. Lowry will certainly make Lillard work hard for his points and assists but also be able to do some damage on the other end (15.9 points. 5.9 assists). Calderon is dangerous as well. Lillard had 21 points, six rebounds and 5 assists in New York but only scored 9 points in the meeting against the Raptors in December. With teams taking the ball out of his hands, Lillard has been forced to do more work off the ball, and even though he isn't always starting the offense, he is still getting good shots and other than the visit to L.A., he has been hitting his shots.
        
    •    Having Wesley Matthews certainly made a difference last night. When things got tough, the Trail Blazers stood tall and Matthews' presence on the floor and his "never quit" attitude rubbed off on the players he shared the floor with. Having his tenacity and his ability to make shots as well as drive the lane to create for others is a major plus. Batum also continued his great play with 26 points, six assists and four rebounds. Having these guys play in this match-up will certainly make it more fun to watch. Their three-point shooting and playmaking should make this iteration of Raptors-Trail Blazers a more open affair than the slog the previous game was. The Trail Blazers are 4-2 this year on the second night of a back-to-back. Portland has yet to win one of those games after a win the previous night, so tonight will not only be a chance to improve their road record but also take both games in a back-to-back situation for the first time this season.

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