The Toronto Raptors suffered a close loss on the road on Thursday, going down 119-122 to the Wizards. Kyle Lowry racked up 29 points to go with six boards and five assists, while DeRozan contributed despite having a poor shooting night with 23-6-5.
The loss sent their record to 34-16, still comfortably ahead of Cleveland in third place in the Eastern Conference, and two games back from Boston in first. They will return to Toronto for a four game homestand, starting with a matchup against the Trail Blazers on Friday.
Portland have won four games in a row after they easily disposed of the Bulls 124-108 on Wednesday. CJ McCollum played perhaps the best game of his career, dropping 50 points on 18-25 in the first three quarters before sitting out in the fourth.
They are in fifth place in the Western Conference, boasting a record of 29-22.
Three keys to the game
Trail Blazers on a tear - Portland have been terrific since mid-January, having won seven of their past eight games. Their defense during this period has been much the same, but their offense has excelled. Throughout the course of the year they have scored 105.4 points per 100 possessions, but during this eight game streak it is up to 114.2 points.
Raptors in Toronto - Only four times this season has a team entered Canada and left with a win. The Raptors are 19-4 at the Air Canada Center, and hold a net rating of 10.4; equal first with Golden State. They score 110.9 points per 100 possessions compared to 108.8 on the road, while their defensive rating of 100.6 is almost five points better than it is outside of Canada.
Battle of the backcourt - Both these sides are built around the backcourt, and they subsequently have two of the best 1-2 combinations in the league. Lillard and McCollum average 47.2 points, 8.7 boards, 9.5 dimes, and 1.9 steals combined per game. Lowry and DeRozan team up for 41.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, 11.6 assists and 2.4 steals a night. Pretty handy numbers.
Matchup to watch
CJ McCollum vs DeMar DeRozan - Two of the best shooting guards in the game will matchup against one another in this one. DeRozan has sealed a starting place in the all-star game owing to a year in which he has put up stellar numbers. He scores 24.4 points per game, but most impressive has been the development of his passing game - his 5.2 assists a night this season is comfortably the highest number of his career - and, until an extended recent lapse in form, his improved 3-point shooting. His opponent has never had the same need; McCollum has been a fantastic shooter ever since he entered the league. This year though, he is hitting 43.1% of shots from beyond the arc, the highest numbers of his career. On Wednesday he took the game away from the Bulls in the first quarter with 27 points. Both players can make tough shots look easy, and often the influence of a good defender does little to quell their impact. This should be an entertaining matchup.
Toronto Raptors predicted starting lineup
PG - Kyle Lowry | SG - DeMar DeRozan | SF - OG Anunoby | PF - Serge Ibaka | C - Jonas Valanciunas
Portland Trail Blazers predicted starting lineup
PG - Damian Lillard | SG - CJ McCollum | SF - Evan Turner | PF - Al-Farouq Aminu | C - Jusuf Nurkic
DeRozan has enjoyed his 15 games against Portland, averaging 22.1 points per game, higher than against all teams excluding Miami and Golden State. He goes at 44.7% from the floor, and also dishes out three assists a night.
Lillard’s career numbers against Toronto are also pretty impressive. He has scored 26.3 points per game against them, a career high, while going at 45.7% from the floor. He also contributes 6.8 assists and a steal a night.
Oddsmakers have respected the form of Portland of late, giving them just a 4.5 point handicap against a Toronto team which is very, very good at home. The Raptors to cover this line is a good bet. As good as the Blazers have been of late, the Raptors are simply too good in Canada, and should be able to take care of business in a high scoring game by more than five points.
This will be a highly entertaining game to watch between two teams with very potent offenses. Portland, after struggling relative to their talent for much of the first half of the season, have finally clicked into gear at that end of the floor, and are playing some very efficient basketball. Toronto have been good at that end of the floor all season, led ably by DeRozan, who will no doubt put in another sound performance.
The Raptors will be hoping that McCollum doesn’t carry his confidence from Wednesday’s game into this one, and if he does the Trail Blazers will be in with a huge chance. It’s unlikely that he will be able to put on a similar show in this game though, and Toronto should have enough firepower to win this one 118-112.
The game will be broadcast locally on Sportsnet One and NBCSNW. Tip-off is at 7:30pm ET.