The road trip finally comes to a close as the 4-17 Raptors head to Portland to face the 8-12 Trail Blazers. The Raptors are 0-4 on this trip with an average losing margin of 15.25 points, so it hasn’t been pretty. And it doesn’t get any better, as they head home to face the Nets, Mavericks and Rockets after this. Hey, maybe they’ll beat the Mavs since yours truly will be back for Christmas and in the house.

But that’s looking ahead past tonight’s likely loss. Tip-off is at 10 p.m. EST on TSN2.

Tale of the Tape
Offensive Rating – Portland 103.9 (15th), Toronto 102.5 (22nd)
Defensive Rating – Portland 108.8 (26th), Toronto 109.9 (29th)
Pace – Toronto 91.9 (16th), Portland 91.4 (21st)
Strength – Toronto Ball Control (3rd in TO%), Portland Balance (4 with 16+ PPG)
Weakness – Toronto 3-Point D (39.1%, 27th), Portland Bench (Worst Ever)

Positional Breakdown
Point Guards – Kyle Lowry and Jose Calderon v. Damian Lillard and Ronnie Price
Advantage:
Portland
Don’t shoot me, because I know there have been some knocks on Lillard (poor defense, the “next Damon”, whatever that means), but the kid is a real treat to watch. Maybe there are some flaws in his game still, but he’s also a rookie coming from a small-ish program making a HUGE leap in competition level to the NBA, and he’s been good for 19 points and six dimes a night while stroking 38% from beyond the arc. He’s a match-up nightmare for this team, assuming Lowry still isn’t “into it” as has been the case sometimes lately. If we get the ‘good’ Lowry it’ll be a fun match-up, but if not, the advantage Calderon provides over Price won’t matter much at all.

Wings – DeMar DeRozan, Mickael Pietrus, Terrence Ross and Linas Kleiza v. Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, Victor Claver and SashaPavlovic
Advantage:
Portland
Is this the worst bench in the NBA? You’d have to think so, considering some of the players who get regular burn with this squad. Still, it’s not like the Raptors are flush with wing talent. Matthews and Batum are significant upgrades on anything Toronto can counter with. Even worse, they both hit from deep with regularity, an area the Raptors have done opponents a favor in regularly. If these two are left open all night when players cheat to help and don’t recover, it’s going to be over quickly (and then close again because this bench is so bad, and then over quickly once more when the starters return). I don’t have a Pietrus update at this time, but it saddens me deeply that him being out of the lineup actually upset me the other night. Pietrus. That’s how bad things have gotten, that a guy who’s been here for four games is now a key player.

Bigs – Andrea Bargnani, Jonas Valanciunas, Amir Johnson and Ed Davis v. LaMarcus Aldridge, J.J. Hickson, Meyers Leonard and Jared Jeffries
Advantage
: Toronto
Just a slight nod here for the Raps, and it comes from the bench, of course. Aldridge is hands down the best big in the game and Bargnani will struggle to guard him, but Hickson is still raw and can be exploited. We got ‘good’ Amir last game, so he’s likely to disappear tonight but hopefully he shows up, as this is a good match-up for him – he can help with the Aldridge duties and should be able to make hay out of the pick-and-roll with Hickson guarding him. If Davis’ finger has healed, he could have a big game, too, as the Blazers are mediocre on the glass with their bench being especially atrocious. Jonas…well, he’s hit the wall. I don’t feel comfortable predicting a bounce-back game until we’ve seen it from him.

The Pick
Vegas – Portland -3.5
Hollinger Power Rating – Portland -3.5
Blake – Toronto by 6

No, seriously, I’m taking the Raptors. It’s mostly because I’m getting tired of being so negative all the time of late, but also because I can envision a scenario in which the Raptors galvanize based on being fed up with themselves and actually play a good, complete game. Make fun all you want, but occasionally you’ve gotta show some faith in your team and just be a fan.


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