Quick Reaction: Trail Blazers 105, Raptors 117

Wow, just about as important a win as the Raptors have had all year. Great.

Trail Blazers105Final
Box Score
O. Anunoby34 MIN, 14 PTS, 5 REB, 2 AST, 4 STL, 4-11 FG, 2-4 3FG, 4-4 FT, 1 BLK, 2 TO, 1 +/-

Early fouls took him off the court in the first, which never seemed to be an issue for him before the season. Not super smooth driving into crowds, getting stripped at times and losing the ball out of bounds at others. Still had his high points, including blocking Lillard on a stepback jumper (!) and collecting steals. He held up great on Lillard on switches, although he got got late in the fourth. VanVleet was particularly excellent, but it’s not like Dame had it easy once he got a switch. Hit a very, very crucial triple late.

S. Barnes29 MIN, 22 PTS, 9 REB, 4 AST, 3 STL, 7-12 FG, 1-3 3FG, 7-8 FT, 2 BLK, 1 TO, 9 +/-

So decisive and potent. He was a real offensive engine in this one, sharing duties there with Siakam and VanVleet. Set unbelievable screens. Guarded Nurkic in the post early, and the Blazers really tried to hit that matchup. Raps had to double, opening up cuts and passes for triples. Unbelievable block in isolation on Lillard and erased one at the rim that should have been point points. On the other end, Barnes actually took the jumpers they gave him, and he hit ‘em, too, at least early. Used his size in the second half, cutting for floaters, drawing fouls, and altogether being massive. Won the game in the clutch with passing and rebounding.

P. Siakam38 MIN, 27 PTS, 4 REB, 6 AST, 2 STL, 8-19 FG, 2-4 3FG, 9-11 FT, 1 BLK, 4 TO, 11 +/-

Gave up the spotlight to Barnes early on the offensive end, but he got a couple quick scores in the post midway through the first quarter to pull Toronto close. He’s so ridiculously good when he gets to pick his spots rather than when he has to create on every possession. Really trusted his counters in the post, particularly that short midrange fadeaway. Coulda had a lot more free throws than he got, which, not his fault. Unbelievable defense late, including a strip on a red-hot Dame in isolation, and lots of rim protection on rotation. Wow.

G. Trent Jr.36 MIN, 19 PTS, 4 REB, 1 AST, 2 STL, 6-16 FG, 2-4 3FG, 5-6 FT, 1 BLK, 2 TO, 3 +/-

Not his most efficient game, but still a very good one. That’s not always the case for him! So great to see. Running around wide pins turned into Toronto’s offense to start the second, which was so, so awesome. He hit his jumpers, but the most important thing was just having an identity. Guys gotta know what the team wants. The hierarchy made sense, and Gary was the biggest reason why the Raps were able to buy rest minutes for the big four.

F. VanVleet35 MIN, 14 PTS, 6 REB, 7 AST, 0 STL, 5-12 FG, 4-9 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 0 TO, 12 +/-

Phenomenal job in a malleable role. Great, great off-ball defense, really getting in the way of passing and driving lanes. Fantastic job helping down low and forcing travels on Nurkic by not letting him go up early. Underrated thing he’s done the last week or two: He’s been phenomenal cracking back on the defensive glass and getting his body into much bigger players to steal boards. He was quiet offensively early, but used a phenomenal pick-and-roll, drive, Nash, relocate, pump fake, drive, shot-fake, dump-off, eight-piece combo for a dime. Wowie. He used his legs with and without the ball to chop Portland’s defense into bits. Drilled some triples too to keep the lead alive late!

C. Koloko13 MIN, 8 PTS, 4 REB, 2 AST, 0 STL, 4-5 FG, 0-0 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 0 TO, 20 +/-

Super active on both ends, just the best game of his short career, I’d say. Completely changed the texture of the game when playing. Held up on the defensive end against Dame (!) multiple times, in space and at the rim, and even had a romping touch pass to Siakam in transition for a layup. Missed a monster dunk attempt, but really like seeing him go up strong. Unbelievable finish on a Siakam lob, too. The fouls weren’t, ahh, all entirely, shall we say, deserved. He even hit the dagger to close the game with a putback!

J. Hernangomez12 MIN, 0 PTS, 0 REB, 0 AST, 1 STL, 0-1 FG, 0-1 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 0 TO, 9 +/-

Tested by Dame when he checked in, and even though he held up fine, Lillard still got his points. That’s life. His defensive process was really solid – he gets to his spots on time, which is not a thing every Raptor does. Missed his jumpers, though, which has been a thing for him for his entire career, so it’s probably an unfair expectation that the Raptors are using him as a movement shooter.

P. Achiuwa11 MIN, 4 PTS, 2 REB, 0 AST, 0 STL, 2-6 FG, 0-2 3FG, 0-0 FT, 1 BLK, 0 TO, -4 +/-

Holy cow, that’s the vision right there. Created for himself in transition immediately when he hit the floor, which is always a mix, but worked in this one. Got beat backdoor, but recovered for a monster block. One of Toronto’s only “problem solvers” on the defensive end, and he showed it here. Cut from the rim for a lob from a Malachi split.

M. Flynn13 MIN, 2 PTS, 0 REB, 3 AST, 0 STL, 1-3 FG, 0-2 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 0 TO, 2 +/-

Big, big improvement. He got to run some pick and roll for the bench, which is in his wheelhouse and worked great. Great split in the pick and roll to throw a lob to Achiuwa. He held up less well against Dame in the fourth, losing him for some deep triples, but you know what? That’s fine. Toronto had some room for error in this one because it nailed so many elements. It turns out not everything has to be perfect!

C. Boucher10 MIN, 3 PTS, 1 REB, 0 AST, 0 STL, 1-1 FG, 1-1 3FG, 0-0 FT, 1 BLK, 1 TO, 1 +/-

Battled on the glass. He looks better when the structure looks better around him (shouts to Samson for that one), and it really showed here. Toronto found its identity, and so did Boucher.

T. Young09 MIN, 4 PTS, 6 REB, 1 AST, 0 STL, 2-5 FG, 0-1 3FG, 0-0 FT, 1 BLK, 0 TO, -4 +/-

Had a discussion with Scottie. A normal game for Thad. Some finishes, attacked the offensive glass, and chipped in by taking charges defensively. At this point, steals and charges is his contribution on that end; his footspeed isn’t enough to do much otherwise. But he can remain positive from time to time, and this was one of those times.

Nick Nurse

A lot to like, obviously, but you know what my favourite thing was? He trusted Malachi Flynn despite the poor showings recently. Toronto needs consistency as a team, and players like Flynn can’t build rhythm without knowing what and where role will be. But Flynn has got a spot in the rotation. and Nurse continued using him in it. That trust was paid off huge. The team was decisive and intentional, and the rotations were a big part of it. Consistency is always important. Dame went berserk, obviously, but I liked the process on him.

Things We Saw

  1. Some of the best defense Toronto has played all season. Gave up some open triples in the first quarter, but really turned off the faucet there later. Reminiscent of the Raptors teams of yore — start good, identify what’s not great, and slowly constrict on the other team’s throats by adding those components throughout the contest. Phenomenal job on Lillard (props, in order of importance there, to Fred, then O.G., then Scottie). Great defensive rebounding. Rotations were on time. Rim protection from guys like Koloko, Barnes, and Achiuwa was great. They forced turnovers and misses! What a world.
  2. Phenomenal offensive process in the first quarter. Mixing up sets, trying to create a variety of advantages, and letting Siakam pick his spots rather than forcing him to do everything. Barnes created well, VanVleet mixed in drives and jumpers, and Siakam absolutely dominant. Offense is supposed to be easy in the NBA! The Raptors made it look easy early. Things clammed up a little bit late, but Barnes stepped up into the void of organization to save the team with some screening. That’s what versatility looks like! The value of having multiple options.
  3. Raps went gigantic early in the second with Boucher, Achiuwa, and Koloko all playing together. It worked! The defense especially held up great. Proactive rather than responding to issues.
  4. Identity is so huge in the NBA. What do the Raptors want on the offensive end? It’s not always easy to identify. But against the Blazers, it was clear: let Barnes use space to create advantages, let Siakam attack in single coverage, and run Gary around off-ball screens. Simple stuff, and it worked. Identity is crucial. When the game reached clutch time, some of the burden shifted further to Barnes, and he responded. Toronto hasn’t spent a lot of time as a versatile offensive team since 2019-20, but tonight was a really impressive example of blending guys who want the ball in their hands.

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