By rights, the Portland Trail Blazers should have come in fatigued, having travelled from New Jersey on Tuesday night. The Raptors, not having played since Sunday, should have been fresh in comparison.
It didn’t look like that.
“We were sloppy with the ball,” Raptors head coach Jay Triano said referring to the 16 turnovers that resulted in 17 Portland points. “You can’t blame it on any (one guy). We just didn’t take care of the ball very well. This is a team (Portland) that doesn’t score a lot of fast-break points, but they get 20 of them because we turn it over and they turned those turnovers into fast breaks.”
Outside of perhaps Hedo Turkoglu, who looked as into a game as he has been since he wore an Orlando uniform, the Raptors had almost no answer for the likes of Brandon Roy, Andre Miller and Rudy Fernandez.
Hindsight being what it is, it’s understandable why Raptors fans would want Roy bringing the ball upcourt, dropping jump shots and winning games in crunch time.
He’s a guy who can flat-out score and create, has poured in 50 points in a game and twice been selected as an all-star.
Roy is a franchise player and as long as Chris Bosh remains a Raptor, Bargnani will be a complementary piece.
But Bargnani is by no means a bust, even though he began Wednesday’s tip by heaving a quick perimeter jumper that found nothing but air.
He showed impatience on his second touch when he took LaMarcus Aldridge off the dribble, only to step on the baseline, one of many turnovers that would plague the Raptors in the opening quarter.
At a time when Bosh’s future clearly has been put on the backburner, the burning question centres on the Raptors’ ability to acquire or develop a creator on the wing to complement Bosh.
Roy’s ability to beat his man off the bounce spreads the floor and provides his teammates open looks.
Bargnani’s impact is similar, only he uses his outside shooting to draw his defender away from the basket.
Hedo Turkoglu was good with 24 points and Jarrett Jack had 18 but Andrea Bargnani shot just 6-for-16 from the floor and the bench supplied just 24 points.
“When we came out, the second unit today, we didn’t do the job we have been doing lately so I take some responsibility myself,” said Jose Calderon. “We have to play better, they played better than us today and we have a hard one on Friday (at home against Cleveland).”
With the offence misfiring, the Raptors errors defensively only made the situation worse.
Portland guards Andre Miller, 18 points and 10 assists, and Brandon Roy, a team-high 20 points, dominated for long stretches, regardless of what Toronto did.
“Post-ups, isos, whatever,” said Triano. “We tried different guys on them, we tried different looks and we couldn’t stop them.”
“We just let them get easy baskets,” said Turkoglu, who brushed off talk of his own solid stats. “I don’t know how much they had in fast breaks. I think they are last in the NBA in fast-break points, but they had too many easy points.”
Turkoglu said he and his teammates should consider being a little more selfish to get their offence back up to the 100-point mark.
“We were really trying to do too much, I guess,” he said. “Instead of looking for what’s best for our shot, people tried to do too much. We are a good team, an unselfish team. We tried to find the extra man, but sometimes we have to look at our shots, too, and when it’s good we have to take it.”
They picked a decent time to deliver a ragged effort, however, although it was not perfect timing. A C-plus effort against New Jersey, for example, might be good enough for a win. Against Portland on Wednesday it was not. Bu with Canada and Russia meeting in Olympic hockey, fewer people than normal had to witness it, and the effort might go relatively unnoticed.
The Trail Blazers were kind enough to wear their red throwback uniforms, meaning one club was in red and the other in white – kind of like that other game going on. The whole experience of being in the emptier-than-usual Air Canada Centre was odd. As the second quarter began, there was a seemingly inexplicable burst of applause, as nothing was happening on the court. Ryan Getzlaf, however, had scored, and the fans in the luxury boxes might have had their attention diverted.
And so it continued, as Canada let loose an avalanche on Russia.
"You couldn’t help but hear them," Jack said of the strangely timed cheers.
With the way the Raptors played, the cheers were even more distinctive than usual.
Toronto has been a very good team as of late, and had even won its last two without Bosh, before this game. They entered the night with a 21-7 home record, and had won 10 of their last 12. The run, they score, and they have players who can flat out stick the ball from the perimeter. And, they had scored 100 points or more in 20-straight games.
Portland figured out away to slow down the Raptors’ high-powered offense, and were an efficient machine when they got a chance to score. Toronto was held to its second-lowest output of the season, as the Blazers beat them 101-87. This is a team averaging 105 points per game.
With the exception of the first few minutes of this contest, the Trail Blazers were in control throughout. They build a 17-point lead, saw it cut to 6 in the second half, but were never really threatened in the fourth quarter.
Andre Miller was fantastic once again, this time going up against the guy who left the Blazers at the altar last summer, Hedo Turkoglu. Miller had 18 points, 10 assists, 7 rebounds, 3 steals, and didn’t commit a single turnover for the second-straight game.
My favorite statistical part of this win was the high shooting percentages and the low turnovers. Specifically, the Blazers shot 49%, had 25 assists and only 6 turnovers. On the flip side, Toronto shot a respectable 45% but only had 18 assists and struggled with 16 turnovers. In the past, low turnovers were attributed to the conservative play of Steve Blake when he logged big point guard minutes. But in two road games, Brandon Roy and Andre Miller have combined for only 1 turnover in over 145 minutes of floor time combined. Astonishing work by two guys who now seem to be working together and flourishing. A healthy and established back-court could prove to be dangerous down the stretch.
This year is different -very different. At every position, Triano has a smorgasbord of options, allowing him to establish a regular rotation and try different combinations.
A plethora of posts have filled in while superstar Chris Bosh recovers from injury. For instance, Rasho Nesterovic, who had been chained all year to the bench, has averaged 10 points per game in Bosh’s absence, while Reggie Evans and Amir Johnson have proudly supplied their usual blue-collar muscle.
Triano also has a strong one-two punch at point guard in Jarrett Jack and Jose Calderon. For now, Jack is the starter and Calderon is coming off the bench, but titles and roles don’t matter because both play key minutes.
Perhaps, the most interesting story is that of Antonie Wright. Initially, out of the rotation, Wright put in extra time at practice and is now an integral part of the Raptors, often defending the other team’s best player down the stretch.
The Raptors shot 44 percent in the loss and failed to top 100 points for the first time in their last 21 games.
Brandon Roy couldn’t understand why Jack — who played two seasons in Portland — had been taken out in the third when he was rolling.
"I don’t know why he was subbed out," Roy said. "He was killing us. We didn’t have an answer for him. Coach even came to the sideline and he got upset with us because he was pretty much getting what he wanted. They did us a favor when they subbed him out."
Despite his time on the bench, Jack finished with 18 points and eight assists and said Toronto’s turnovers led to the loss.
"We didn’t do a good job of taking care of the ball early and it helped them establish the lead that they had at halftime," Jack said. "It’s tough to recover when you give the other team an extra possession."
Nearly eight months after Hedo Turkoglu went back on his word and spurned the Trail Blazers’ free agent offer in order to sign a similar deal with Toronto, the Blazers exacted a measure of revenge on Wednesday.
And the player who led the Blazers to a 101-87 victory over Toronto was none other than Andre Miller, the player who was not Plan B, but Plan C on the Blazers’ free agent wish list.
Miller had 18 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds, three steals and no turnovers to trump Turkoglu’s near-perfect night when he scored 24 points on 8-of-9 shooting.
"Even though Andre may not have been the first choice, it has come down to him being the right choice," Blazers star Brandon Roy said. "The way he has been playing for us, he has been our most important guy because of how consistent he has been."
Said Miller: "I guess it has worked out for everybody."
The Raptors “were without their go-to player,” Miller said. “Any time that happens, you want to jump on them.”
Portland did, rolling to a 32-24 lead after one quarter and 51-34 with 3 1/2 minutes to go in the second period. Toronto closed out the half with a 13-2 run, however, and the Blazers’ lead was only 53-47 at intermission.
The margin was only 64-63 midway through the third quarter when a 14-3 Portland spurt made it 78-66. The Raptors never got closer than seven points the rest of the way.
“We had some heavy legs, but the focus was there,” McMillan said. “We didn’t want them to get off to a good start, because they’re tough to play against if that happens. Bosh wasn’t here, and we wanted to try to take advantage of that.”
THE FAN presents the highlights (clip #1 courtesy Paul Jones) and the recap (#2 courtesy Eric Smith) of a 101-87 victory by the Portland Trail Blazers over the Toronto Raptors.
– “It’s hard to say ‘you didn’t see this coming’ with Bosh out of the line up for the Raptors and a QUALITY opponent comign to town. But it’s the WAY Toronto lost that is/was frustrating. Gotta get back at it — with or without Bosh — against the mighty Cavs on Friday.”
– “Portland played the game at their pace and took advantage of Raptors turnovers early to build a lead they never gave up.”
The main issue tonight was turnovers. The Raps finished with 16 of them which were converted for 17 points. Nine of those 16 were steals. It was very uncharacteristic, but not surprising. With out Bosh in the line-up the guards looked almost lost trying to find someone else to pass to. When Toronto is desperate for a bucket or a momentum changer the pass always goes to Bosh. It’s something we take advantage of here in Toronto. If Toronto is down by seven and they need two quick points its automatic that the ball is going to Bosh. Tonight was one of those nights because they needed their scoring anchor. It was one mistake after another until the game was over and you’re left sitting there scratching your head wondering what happened. It was weird.
Kayla Harris breaks down Toronto’s loss to Portland.
A blessing and a curse for a basketball team. Time is good to heal wounds and rest a little bit. Prepare yourself for the battles that lie ahead. Time of can also cause rust to form. The Raptors looked like they were resting too long. They started out very slow and were unable to get any kind of momentum going the entire night. The perimeter defense on Roy, Miller and Fernandez was especially slow. It was hope the time off would help Bosh be ready for this big game, but he was not ready and niether were the Raps. I imagine there will be plenty of hard work before Friday’s matchup against King James.
Even with Chris Bosh in the line-up tonight’s contest versus the Blazers would have been a tough one to win. Tonight I realized truly how entertaining a team the Blazers are to watch, and developed an even greater appreciation for the skill set of Brandon Roy. With the schedule that lies ahead the Raptors are going to have to start stealing some difficult games or they will find themselves in the 6th-8th seeds of the Eastern Conference in a hurry. Go Raps Go!