The Toronto Raptors will try to get their first win against the Portland Trail Blazers since Jan. 2, 2013, while stopping their five-game win streak.
Not having played the currently revamped Blazers squad this season, the Raptors will have to contain their young backcourt consisting of Damian Lilliard and CJ McCollum, who average 44.9 points and 11.5 assists between them.
The Raptors will be without James Johnson for the second straight game, making it either Terrence Ross or Norman Powell to start tonight. Noah Vonleh, is listed as questionable for the Trail Blazers, and will be evaluated before tonight’s 10 p.m. ET game in Portland.
Cage’s Keys to The Game
Watch Out for CJ McCollum
For those that haven’t been watching the Portland Trail Blazers, McCollum has become a serious offensive threat that teams have to game plan for. In games this year that he’s scored 25 points or more, the Blazers have been an impressive 10-4.
McCollum has become a great second-option for the Blazers to have. He’s capable of starting the game as a shooting guard, then playing minutes as the point guard when Lillard takes a seat on the bench.
Powell, the Raptors rookie, should have his opportunity against McCollum considering their similar 6-foot-4 frame. Powell didn’t play well in his first starting role of the season against Phoenix, not recording a single-point in 15 minutes of action. But he did gather two steals, a strong asset of his game that’s helped him hold a higher defensive rating than both DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry this season.
Crash the Defensive Glass
By Toronto crashing the defensive glass, they won’t allow the Blazers to have the extra chances they need to take down a superior team like the Raptors. When the Raptors do dominate the defensive boards, they’ve been very successful. Their 10 highest defensive rebounding games this season have all resulted in wins.
The Trail Blazers on the other hand, are one of the best in the league when it comes to generating second chance opportunities, hustling in 11.8 offensive boards a night –the third highest average in the association.
Their big men are a large reason for their success, with Ed Davis and Mason Plumlee both averaging north of 2.5 offensive boards a game. Offensive boards have always led to an increase in wide open 3-point shots, which is the case with the Blazers who shoot the fourth most 3-pointers in the league.
Let Lowry Have A Night
Lowry had a big night against the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday, scoring 26 points on 53.3 per cent shooting to help them secure the win. It was a great bounce back performance, after only scoring 10 points the night before in a loss against the Denver Nuggets.
Tonight, the Moda Center should be in for a treat when Lowry faces up against Lillard. It’s very likely that we’ll see Lillard try to set a statement, since he’ll be going up against an All-Star point guard after not getting include in his own conference’s team.
Whether Lillard gets hot or not, he’ll still have a miserable time defending Lowry’s lethal offensive game. Lillard ranks as the worst defender on the Trail Blazers, with a 106.5 defensive rating. With such a weakness on the defensive end of the floor, the Raptors should take advantage of Lowry’s tireless play to wear out Lillard, so he won’t have the energy to produce as well offensively.
X Factor: Terrence Ross
With Johnson and DeMarre Carroll both out due to injury, it’s clear why there have been rumours about the Raptors going after PJ Tucker of the Phoenix Suns.
With the Raptors short at the small forward position, it’ll be important for Terrence Ross to step up against the Trail Blazers, who have a lot of wing players at their disposal.
Ross should be ready to matchup against multiple offensive threats tonight, including Aminu, McCollum, Allen Crabbe, and Maurice Harkless.
While Powell has the potential to be a great defender, Ross has four years of NBA experience under his belt. Making it his obligation to step up in desperate times like these. At the same time, Ross is a better offensive option, having scored in double-digits in seven of his past 10 games.
All stats for this article are from BasketballReference.com and NBA.com
You can follow Bryan Meler on Twitter @BryanMelo97