The problems have changed a little, but there is always at least one glaring issue. Sometimes, the issue changes within the same game. More and more, though, the Raptors do not appear to be following any kind of cohesive plot. The Raptors’ ineptitude from beyond the three-point arc, on both ends, was the day’s biggest problem. The Blazers drilled 15 three-pointers, while the Raptors hit three, and none until their 10th attempt, which came in the fourth quarter. It was a more glaring problem on defence, as Portland was essentially taking shooting practice. In overtime, Portland guard Damian Lillard hit a 30-foot bomb to tie the game, and Nicolas Batum sealed it with two of his own.
The Blazers made 15 of 32 three-pointers, so many of them open because Raptors defenders couldn’t get out on shooters it wasn’t even funny. Batum was 5-for-8 in the game, Wesley Matthews was 4-for-7, and it wasn’t as if there was one part of Toronto’s defence that was far worse than the others. Some were open looks because Toronto defenders were slow to rotate to shooters; some were open looks in transition with defenders simply too far away from the Blazers they were supposed to be guarding.
A sense of urgency was expected from the Raptors to start the fourth quarter but that didn’t materialize until there was about four minutes left on the clock. The Dinos made their run however, with a team effort and some incredible individual plays by Rudy Gay and DeMar Derozan, cutting the club’s deficit to two with seconds remaining. And with the game on the line, Gay drove to the hoop with the clock about to expire, tying it, and the comeback was complete. Off to overtime we went. Gay gave the Raptors an early edge in overtime, but Damian Lillard’s ridiculously long three followed by a couple of Nicolas Batum’s threes sealed the Raptors fate. While the Blazers made crisp passes to get easy open looks, the Raps kept trying to go one-on-five and in the end, the comeback was for naught.
Still, pressed further, Gay admitted what has become pretty apparent. The offence needs more variety. “You’re right. That’s something we have to work on. It’s something we have to do. We have to get those other guys to pick it up. It’s us getting more comfortable. Coach even said it before: Our defence is further along than our offence. It’s something we can get better at. Teams get better during the season all of the time.” You are what you are though and these Raptors are an isolation-heavy group that doesn’t complement each other at all. Pick and rolls, the staple of most good teams, are rarely run and plays like the second half one that saw DeRozan try to shoot a fadeaway over a triple team too often embody what this group does with the ball.
Portland entered the game fifth in three-point shooting at 41 per cent and its shooters were red-hot from start to finish. Four Blazers hit three or more treys and they outscored the Raptors, who shot 3-of-17, by 36 from beyond the arc. As a result, Portland extended its lead to as many as 17 before the home team cracked down on defence and Gay took over. Gay, who scored 30 points to go along with 10 rebounds in the game, engineered a 19-6 Raptors run to close out the fourth quarter. Gay had 10 points in that stretch, including the buzzer-beating lay-up that tied the game at 102 and forced overtime. It was his sixth go-ahead or game-tying basket in the final 10 seconds of the fourth quarter or overtime in the past four seasons, passing Carmelo Anthony for most in the league. “It was go-time,” Gay said of the comeback that ultimately fell short in extra time. “Of course, the whole game you have to play like it’s go-time but when you’re back’s against the wall, you have to pick it up and find a way to get the win.”
What a way to spend a Sunday, huh?
In a morning game reminiscent of their meeting in 2008, the Portland Trail Blazers barely held off the Toronto Raptors in overtime to win the first two games of their four-game East Coast road trip, and sixth straight overall.
Bad play and bad luck conspired the Raptors to a season-demolishing 4-19 start to the 2012-13 campaign. Once the losses piled up, the young squad could not pull itself out of the tailspin. This season’s schedule doesn’t let up until mid-January, meaning the record might not be pretty by then. But the 2013-14 Raptors already have four wins in 10 contests and Casey believes this season’s squad will be fine. “It’s a different feel because of what we went through last year,” Casey said Saturday morning after the Raptors went through a practice in preparation for a visit by the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday.
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