We’ll get a good look at the resiliency of the Raptors when the Portland Trail Blazers come to town on Sunday afternoon (1 PM ET, Sportsnet, Sportsnet 590 The FAN).
The Raptors have been all over the map this week. They pushed the Rockets to double overtime despite some serious offensive woes in Houston and then manhandled the Grizzlies in Memphis. But they’re coming off a listless 96-80 loss to the Bulls on Friday, which would have been much worse if not for an inspired scoring effort from DeMar DeRozan — who matched a career-high with 37 points on 13-for-22 shooting from the field.
Head coach Dwane Casey counted enough players giving suitable effort to count on one hand post-game and on Saturday, he was challenging his players to come game-ready against Portland as a tough November schedule grinds on.
“Everybody goes through these stretches of mental and physical fatigue in the NBA, but the good teams find a way to police themselves to get each other ready to go, you don’t wait for coach to come in at halftime to go crazy. That’s developing that leadership and continuing that leadership that we’ve got to have from within.”
More from Dwane Casey after Saturday’s practice below…
Break Up The Blazers
Sunday presents a fascinating test in the form of the Blazers, who have dominated the all-time series between these two teams with 23 wins in 33 meetings and eight in the last nine matchups.
The Raptors did manage to snap an eight-game slide against the Blazers with a wire-to-wire 102-79 win in the last meeting back on January 2nd, led by a career-high 26 points off the bench from Terrence Ross.
It was one of 49 losses on the campaign for Portland last season, but the Blazers are off to a flying start in 2013-14 with a 7-2 mark that has them looking down on everyone but the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference as of Saturday night.
Portland power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, now in his seventh year, has been in this spot before but doesn’t seem intent on his team resting on its laurels this time around.
“I just don’t want guys to be overly confident too early,” Aldridge told Casey Holdahl of Blazers.com on Saturday at ACC. “In that season that Nate (McMillan) got fired and everybody got traded away, we started out 7-2 that year, too. Then we lost to OKC and it just snowballed from there.”
Stiff Test For The D
While the Raptors offence continues to try and establish an identity, they continue to rise up the rankings in terms of defensive efficiency, allowing 98.1 points per 100 possessions — good for seventh in the NBA.
That’s going to get tested against a Portland team that among the league’s best at scoring the ball. The Blazers are scoring an average of 106.4 points per 100 possessions — the third-best offensive rating in the league heading in to this one.
Keep an eye on 3-point shooting in this one. Portland is a top five team in both 3-pointers made and 3-point shooting percentage — with second-year guard Damian Lillard knocking down three from long range. But the Raptors defend the three pretty well, allowing teams to connect on just 31.8 per cent of attempted triples, well below the league average.
Go To The Rim
Portland comes into this one as a strong rebounding team, but they’re susceptible to scoring in the paint — allowing 48.2 points per game inside. The Raptors average 40 points per game in the paint (18th in the league), with the majority of their scoring coming from two and 3-point jumpers.
Can the Raptors wing players drive early and often? Can they take advantage of some capable personnel inside in the forms of Jonas Valanciunas, Amir Johnson and Tyler Hansbrough? Something to watch on offence this afternoon.
On Sunday Morning…
As mentioned, the Blazers did have the opportunity to get acclimated to Eastern Time with practice in Toronto on Saturday, which should be a big help. But this is a game that will be played at 10 AM on Portland time, which could present an opportunity for the Raptors to catch the Blazers a little out of rhythm.
The Lakers, Warriors, Nuggets and Suns are all Western Conference teams playing in the Pacific and Mountain time zones that will visit ACC for a Sunday matinee game this season.
Last season, the Raptors went 7-5 in Sunday afternoon games at ACC.