The Raptors can only hope that February picks up where January left off against the Blazers (33-13) tonight in Portland (10 PM ET, TSN, Sportsnet 590 The FAN).
A road victory in Denver over the Nuggets on Friday matched a franchise record with 11 wins in January. Here are a few reasons why the Raptors (25-21) can confidently aim for a fourth straight win tonight.
Season Of Slump Busting: Last night’s win ended a nine-game drought in Denver for the Raptors dating back to when 50 Cent’s “In Da Club” was reigning supreme on your first generation iPod. The win snapped the Raptors’ third road losing streak of at least eight games this season (Milwaukee – 8 games, Los Angeles Lakers – 10 games) — which is a franchise first.
They could certainly benefit from a reversal of fortune against the Blazers, who have taken nine of the last 10 meetings overall.
Ross Returns To His Roots: The Portland native can build on an astounding week tonight. Last Saturday, Ross racked up 51 points against the Clippers and then used his strong defence to help keep Joe Johnson and Aaron Afflalo in check in wins over the Nets and Magic.
Then there was the “Mile-High Slam” last night in Denver…
It was a spectacular, jaw-dropping, physics-defying posterization of the Nuggets’ Kenneth Faried — a fellow participant in the 2013 Sprite Slam Dunk contest. More importantly, it capped a big first-half for Ross (16 pts) that buoyed the Raptors before they could pull away after the break.
Look for Ross, who scored just two points as a little-used rookie in his homecoming last season, to continue to bloom in his return to the Rose City tonight.
They’ve Stepped Up On The Tail End Of Back-To-Backs: The Raptors are 5-5 in the first game of back-to-backs this season, but 6-4 in the second. Tonight offers a fourth opportunity this season to take both halves of a back-to-back in 11 tries, but it certainly won’t be easy against a 33-13 Blazers team that’s enjoying an even bigger resurgence than the Raptors in 2013-14.
They’re Near Full Strength Again: The Raptors didn’t exactly know who was going to be available in Denver on Friday, with a trio of key players injured and who were game time decisions.
But newly minted NBA All-Star DeMar DeRozan returned to the lineup after a two-game absence with a sprained foot and finished with a team-high 19 points. Patrick “Patman” Patterson was back (in the mask, of course) after missing a game following surgery on his broken nose, while Amir Johnson showed little slowdown after badly rolling his ankle in Wednesday’s win over the Magic.
That keeps the Raptors’ core nine-man rotation intact and leaves Landry Fields (right wrist) as the only player with an injury keeping him out of the lineup.
Raptors: Kyle Lowry (G), DeMar DeRozan (G), Terrence Ross (F), Amir Johnson (F), Jonas Valanciunas (C)
Raptors: Landry Fields – Right wrist surgery (out)
By The Numbers: Raptors @ Blazers
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Last Time They Met: Blazers 118, Raptors 110 – Nov. 16, 2013