Shorthanded Blazers Survive
By mikebarrett Posted in: Raptors
Okay, so this one won't be hanging in an art gallery. But, after Saturday night's loss, and considering they were down two-fifths of the starting lineup they depend so heavily upon, style points were not exactly a prerequisite. The only thing that the Blazers cared about Monday night was getting a win over the Toronto Raptors.
In the process of getting the victory, the Blazers held the Raptors to their lowest point total in the history of the head-to-head series, beating them 92-74.
Unfortunately, that little piece of history wasn't only one that was re-written on this night. Portland went 0 for 20 from behind the three-point line. No NBA had done that before. The fact that they set a new league record, while winning, removed most of the sting and most of the guys were able to laugh about it afterward. The Blazers are actually a decent three-point team, averaging 36 percent from long range, which is good for 13th in the league rankings. You wouldn't have known that watching this game.
Earlier in the afternoon we got word that the Blazers would be without Nic Batum, who was still struggling with lower-back pain. Wesley Matthews, who injured his hip on Saturday, came out and tried to warm up, and was looking pretty good until he tried a routine crossover move. He pulled up, hobbled off the court and went straight to the locker room.
We have talked about the what-ifs concerning injuries to this starting lineup, and now it was here- two of them, actually.
The Trail Blazers started Sasha Pavlovic and Victor Claver in place of Matthews and Batum.
Even though Claver didn't have a good shooting night, he was still effective as a floor spacer, and showed enough activity to keep him in the game for a career-high 26 minutes.
Pavlovich was very good, putting up 10 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists in his 42 minutes. He's a veteran, who has played in some very big games in his career (including the NBA Finals), and Terry Stotts had to be very pleased in what he gave the team on this night, under these circumstances.
The one thing we did know was that the Blazers would ride LaMarcus Aldridge hard in this ballgame. As it turned out, L.A. didn't end with saddle sores, like we thought he could. He was efficient, shooting 11 for 19, had 30 points and 12 rebounds. He only
needed to play 39 minutes.
J.J. Hickson provided yet another double-double in this game, scoring 16 (shooting 7 for 7) and grabbing 11 rebounds in just 23 minutes. It was vital Hickson play well for Portland to come out on top in this game, and he was very good.
The Trail Blazers were able survive without Damian Lillard having a Damian-Lillard type game, and that was a positive. He hit just 2 of his 14 shots, and picked up 6 assists and 5 rebounds.
The most productive bench player for the Blazers in this game was Nolan Smith, who continues to show improvement after being completely out of the rotation at the start of the season. Smith finished with 11 points, 3 assists, and gave the team 21 minutes.
It was an odd game, with Toronto losing Andrea Bargnani after just 8 minutes, after he fell hard on his right elbow. They then lost Kyle Lowry, evidently to a shoulder/rib injury, after he got hit hard a couple of times. He played just 17 minutes.
And, of course, there was the odd situation when veteran Amir Johnson lost his cool with referee David Jones after a made free throw and got tossed out of the game. Johnson, normally a solid citizen in the league, tried to take the ball from Jones, who didn't want to give it up. Neither would let to of the ball, and after Johnson apparently said the magic word(s), Jones ejected him. Johnson then lost his head and fired his mouthpiece at Jones, striking him in the back. That will undoubtedly cost Johnson at least a couple of games and a lot of money.
The Blazers were able to then finally take the rest of the wind out of the Raptors' sails and deliver the knockout punch, stretching the final margin of victory to 18. Toronto came into the game averaging 97 points per game, but were held to just 74 in this one due to a combination of things.
It was Portland's 8th-straight win over the Raptors, which is their longest current winning streak over any NBA team.
One other stat that should be pointed out in this game is that Portland turned the ball over only 7 times. They had that many in the first 7 minutes of Saturday's ugly game against the Kings.
Next up, it's the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday night. They've been on a typical San-Antonio type regular-season roll, and will come into Portland all business. The Blazers hope to get Matthews and/or Batum back for that game. This game showed they've got capable players who can help their team survive Toronto, but San Antonio is an entirely different beast.
Thursday's game is a TNT game, so that's where you'll need to go to watch it. We'll be back on TV Sunday, when the Blazers host the New Orleans Hornets.