The Portland Trail Blazers are in town for a 7:30 p.m. tip on TSN. It should be a really fun game, with a pair of high-end backcourts squaring off, friends visiting, and the ACC looking to lock down a franchise-record 12th victory in a row for the home side.
Short of the Splash Brothers, it’s tough to think of two guard combos playing at a higher offensive level right now than Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan and Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.
“It’s always fun,” DeRozan said at shootaround Friday. “Having a backcourt, whatever you wanna call it. It’s definitely fun to go out and compete with guys that are playing at a high level.”
Head coach Dwane Casey spoke about the Blazers’ duo, too, and without knowing otherwise, this quote could just as well be about the Raptors’ pair.
Both of them are a good fit, they have no egos, they play well together. They’re unselfish, they will make the play if a play presents itself. I don’t think their ball-dominant. Their scorers, both of them are stone-cold scorers, but they will make a play and make a pass if it presents itself.
This showdown was covered off plenty earlier. Check out the full game preview here.
Return of The Boss
Ed Davis, who was a Toronto Raptors lottery pick in 2010 and played 176 games with the franchise over two-and-a-half seasons, returns to Toronto as a key part of the Blazers’ frontcourt rotation. He’s really found his place in the league since landing in Portland.
Here’s DeRozan on his former teammate:
It’s just a matter of finding his spot. He’s gonna do what he knows how to do, he’s never going to step out of his lane. He’s going to go out there and play extremely hard for you, rebound, block shots, and find his niche. I think he learned that being on a couple teams now. He’s one of those guys that’s a veteran now and definitely a professional, understanding his role on the team.
DeRozan and Davis, by the way, are long-time close friends. Best friends, even. Sorry Lowry, but here’s DeRozan again:
What more can I say? He’s the Godfather of my daughter. That says a lot. He’s probably one of my closest friend, probably hands down my best friend I’ve had since we was young. Way before we even though about going to the NBA.
Camps. Nike camps, coming up. We was McDonald’s All-American together. Playing in Jordan Brand games. Everything you can think of in the summer, we was always together, and we always had that great chemistry.
Davis is averaging 6.5 points and 7.4 rebounds for Portland this season while shooting 60.8 percent from the floor. The 33-29 Blazers are also one point per-100 possessions better with Davis on the floor, and he’s the only big who’s proven reliable on the defensive end when paired with Meyers Leonard.
Another real friend
DeRozan is also very close with Lillard, adding yet another fun layer to Friday’s game. They share a trainer and an agent and work out together in the summers, but sadly, when I asked if DeRozan may appear on a Dame Dolla track at some point, he offered a firm “No.”
The Raptors recalled their D-League detachment so they’ll only be without DeMarre Carroll. The Blazers, meanwhile, are entirely healthy, as Al-Farouq Aminu’s bruised hand from Wednesday isn’t believed to be a big deal. The rotations will line up something like this, then:
PG: Lowry, Joseph, Wright vs. Lillard, Roberts
SG: POWELL, Ross, vs. McCollum, Henderson, Connaughton
SF: DeROZAN, Johnson, Caboclo vs. Aminu, Crabbe, Harkless, Montero
PF: Scola, Patterson, Thompson vs. Vonleh, Davis, Alexander
C: Valanciunas, Biyombo, Nogueira vs. Plumlee, Leonard, Kaman
UPDATE: Norman Powell is starting at the two and sliding DeRozan to the three. My guess is that the Raptors didn’t want to ask DeRozan with chasing McCollum, and Johnson has played poorly since returning from injury while playing through a minor foot issue. Powell, meanwhile, is coming off of a 36-12-6 performance with the 905 on Thursday and has played solid defense when called upon at the NBA level.
The Raptors are six-point favorites, up a shade from a Raptors -5 opening line. The over-under has also fallen to 207.5 from 208.5, as predicted. Raptors 105, Blazers 101.
But don’t be fat and sassy
Asked about players like Lillard playing mad during his pregame media availability, Casey offered this warning:
Dwane Casey on playing angry: “I like players being mad…Teams that are happy and fat and sassy and full of themselves lose.”
— Blake Murphy (@BlakeMurphyODC) March 4, 2016