Portland Trail Blazers (38-23) vs. Toronto Raptors (45-17)
Friday, March 1 - 5:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Enes Kanter (out), Evan Turner (out)
Raptors injuries: Fred VanVleet (out)
How to watch on TV: ESPN, NBCSNW
How to stream: YouTube Live TV, Playstation Vue, Hulu Live TV, FuboTV
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Raptors HQ
The Portland Trail Blazers take on the Raptors following a clutch win over the Boston Celtics 97-92. Damian Lillard led the way with 33 points, and Maurice Harkless issued a standout two-way performance with 17 points, 10 rebounds, and three steals. The Blazers had a dominant fourth quarter that allowed them to put away the Celtics, who struggled to defend Jusuf Nurkic in the post.
The Toronto Raptors face the Blazers after shellacking the Celtics in Toronto 118-95. Pascal Siakam had 25 points, while Kawhi Leonard had 21 points on the night. Serge Ibaka added 14 points, and Kyle Lowry had 14 assists for the Raptors in their decisive win. Toronto showed remarkable energy during the second quarter, outscoring the Celtics 36-13. The Raptors are a team that likes to push the pace in transition and take advantage of turnovers, something the Blazers will have to look out for.
What to watch for
- Teamwork makes the dream work. The Blazers can rely on good team basketball to get them through this road trip. While getting trapped in an elevator is taking team bonding to the extreme, there is no doubt that this squad has a special something about them when it comes to group chemistry.
- A Kanter-less bench. Enes Kanter will not travel with the team to Toronto due to immigration difficulties. This adds a wrinkle to the new rotation for the second unit, and it is likely that either Zach Collins or Meyers Leonard will have to step up to fill Kanter’s shoes. The bench all but disappeared against the Celtics. Versus the Raptors, they will have to bring considerable energy.
- Headband Moe. Maurice Harkless came out swinging against Boston: in the first five minutes of the game, Harkless had two steals. It appears that Harkless has embraced his role as a pesky defender post-All Star Break, which is something he did last season, too. His play on both ends of the floor was nothing short of remarkable as he logged a double-double and managed to shoot 61%. This time, though, it comes with a headband.
What they’re saying
The Toronto Star’s Doug Smith dives into the rise of Pascal Siakam, who has become a centerpiece for the Raptors this season:
He got his chance and thrived. Teammates trusted him and he paid back that trust with continued improvement. He is humble and hungry and immensely talented and, really, just scratching the surface.
“He plays the game with a great energy, almost a joy,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said of Siakam. “He practises that way, so there’s a great motor there that can keep him going and working.”
Paul Flannery of SB Nation explores what the new-look Raptors squad may be capable of down the stretch:
This isn’t like previous seasons, when the Raptors strong regular season resumes were offset by the backdrop of a nerve-wracking playoff history. There’s a new coach and half the roster has been turned over. They are not those Raptors.
Rather, this version is more of a blank slate. They could win the East or get knocked out in the second round and neither outcome would be terribly surprising. Honestly, I’m not sure what to make of them and I don’t think I’m alone in that estimation.
Over at Raptors HQ, Ben Scott evaluates the hot or not aspects of the Raptors, including their upcoming schedule:
The Raptors schedule really eases up from here on out. They play the Knicks, Pistons, and Hornets two times apiece and have the easiest remaining strength of schedule according to Tankathon. It’s going to be important for them to beat up on bad teams if they want to catch Milwaukee for the first seed (they are currently three games behind in the loss column and do not hold the tiebreaker).