The Trail Blazers suffered their sixth loss in seven games after falling to the Raptors 114-106 on Wednesday. Led by a pair of 30-point performances from Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet, Toronto completed a dominating 14-0 run in the fourth quarter to emerge victorious. For the Blazers, Rodney Hood led the way with 25 points as Damian Lillard failed to reach double-digits for the first time in the 2019-20 season.
It wasn’t pretty, but the contest was closer than the final score indicates. Two prolonged runs from the Raptors in the second half doomed the Blazers, eventually adding another few inches to the hole Portland is digging to start the year.
Hassan Whiteside set the tone early for the Blazers’ offense. The big fella corralled three offensive rebounds to keep possessions rolling and he added eight points of his own thanks to his red-hot jump shot. Outside of Whiteside, Lillard did an excellent job of finding shooters in stride. Lillard effortlessly connected with Anfernee Simons and Rodney Hood for assists.
The Raptors clawed past an early 13-2 deficit by testing rookie Nassir Little with burgeoning star Pascal Siakam. Toronto’s leading man pulled the defense to him, opening up lanes for his teammates to take advantage of favorable attempts. The Blazers managed to finish the quarter strong, closing the opening frame with a 30-23 lead.
Fueled by rookie wing Terence Davis, the Raptors came roaring back in the second quarter. Davis connected on three of his four three-point attempts, putting Toronto out in front while Lillard rested on the bench.
Davis wasn’t the only rookie to impact the action in the second quarter. It wasn’t perfect, but Little’s energy was contagious. The former North Carolina standout completed a chase-down block and crashed through two opponents to secure an offensive rebound late in the quarter.
Thanks to a 41.2 percent mark from distance and a perfect 9-9 performance from the free throw line, the Raptors finished the half ahead 54-53.
Hood’s crisp shooting from the first half reached a new level in the third quarter. The former Cavs forward exploited the extra attention the Raptors paid to Lillard, leading to wide-open attempts from beyond the arc. Along with catch-and-shoot buckets, Hood continued to torch hasty close-outs by getting to the midrange with single-dribble moves. Unfortunately for Portland, Fred VanVleet was equally as hot from the same spots on the opposite end of the floor. Hood finished the quarter with 14 points, VanVleet kept pace with 10.
The Raptors pulled away in the final moments of the third frame by taking full advantage of a series of sloppy possessions from the Blazers. Turnovers and a surge from Siakam led to a 16-3 run for Toronto, putting the visitors up 87-78 after three quarters.
CJ McCollum and Mario Hezonja delivered a shot of offense into the Blazers arm to start the final quarter. McCollum utilized his usual bag of tricks to keep his defender off balance and generated five quick points to pull Portland level at 89 at the nine-minute mark. It unraveled from there.
Lillard, who has single-handedly kept the Blazers in contests to start the year, was unable to find that extra gear. VanVleet and Siakam did not encounter that problem. Toronto’s duo opened Portland’s defense like a bag of chips at altitude. VanVleet was unstoppable moving downhill and Siakam feasted on a favorable matchup against Hood. The Raptors completed a 14-0 run in the middle of the fourth quarter and never looked back, handing the Blazers a 114-106 loss.
The Kids are Alright
Nassir Little made his first start and recorded seven points in 23 minutes of work. It was all energy and a healthy dose of chaos from the youngster. Outside of a few plays from Hezonja, Little was the only player that slowed down Siakam. The problem spots in his game can be fixed with time. Dialing in his shot selection should be near the top of the to-do list for Portland’s coaching staff if Little is going to become a regular in the starting lineup.
Second-year guard Anfernee Simons bounced back from a forgettable performance against the Kings to notch 17 points. He has blossomed into a dangerous option from the corner.
I’ll admit it, Jusuf Nurkic’s absence has generated more uneasiness for me than the void that Zach Collins’ shoulder injury created. Watching Siakam and Marc Gasol go to work against the Blazers temporarily shifted that discomfort. Hood’s physical limitations prevented him from stymying Siakam and Gasol went 3-5 from beyond the arc against his paint-dominant opposition.
The Blazers kick off a six-game road trip against the Spurs in San Antonio on Saturday.