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Blazers Drop Heartbreaker in Toronto

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Despite a valiant comeback effort, Portland fell just short of a win against the Raptors, losing 119-117 on a Kawhi Leonard buzzer-beater.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Toronto Raptors Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers saw their five-game winning streak come to an end on Friday night in Toronto, falling 119-117 to the Raptors. The loss wasn’t due to lack of effort, however. Portland overcame a 16-point second half deficit to actually take the lead in the fourth quarter, but ultimately fell just short of the victory thanks to a game-winning fade-away jumper from Kawhi Leonard—who finished with a game-high 38 points. CJ McCollum led the Blazers with 35.

The Raptors shot 65% in the opening quarter and took a seven-point lead into halftime, before extending that lead to as many as 16 points mid-way through the third quarter. However, they missed 12 shots in a row between the end of the third and beginning of the fourth, and the Blazers were able to get back in the game. The two teams went back-and-forth over the last few minutes, before Leonard sealed the game with 1.5 seconds left.

Wild Finish

With the score tied at 113 and 46 seconds remaining, Damian Lillard, who had 13 points in the fourth quarter, went 1-2 from the free-throw line to give Portland the lead. After Kyle Lowry answered with a basket on the other end, and Leonard made two foul shots of his own, Lillard drew what appeared to be a phantom foul on Lowry from behind the three-point line with 14 seconds remaining. He made all three of his shots to tie the game at 117.

The Raptors elected not to call a timeout, and Leonard raced the ball to the baseline, before stepping back for a mid-range jumper that clanged around the rim for two full seconds before finally falling through. The Blazers, left with no timeouts and only 1.5 seconds left, had to settle for a 80-foot heave from Lillard at the buzzer. The shot actually hit the far side of the backboard, but it wasn’t enough as the Raptors survived.

Two-Headed Monster

Leonard and Marc Gasol, in his first start as a Raptor, were the main offensive cogs for Toronto on the night. Portland center Jusuf Nurkic drew two quick fouls, and with Enes Kanter not with the team due to visa issues, the team called on Meyers Leonard for the first time since February 11th. Gasol took advantage of the defensive match-up, and scored 13 of his 19 points in the first half. When the Blazers tried to go back to Nurk in the middle of the second quarter, the big man almost immediately picked up his third foul, and spent the rest of the half on the bench.

Kawhi Leonard had 18 points in the first half, but was definitely slowed down by stellar defense from Al-Farouq Aminu. However, with Aminu on the bench in the fourth, the Claw went off in the fourth, scoring 15 points down the stretch and putting the team on his back offensively. Both Jake Layman and Maurice Harkless tried to hinder him defensively, but they had no answers.

McCollum Shines

CJ had a monster performance, and was largely responsible for keeping Portland in the game for much of the night. He went 7-11 from three-point land, and finished with 35 points overall. Toronto did an excellent job of neutralizing Lillard by double-teaming in pick-and-roll scenarios, so the team certainly needed CJ’s production. McCollum was the only Blazer to consistently knock down shots throughout the game, and the Raptors likely win in blow-out fashion without his big night.

Key Players

Lillard finished with 24 points on just 8-17 from the field, but did register eight rebounds and six assists.

Nurkic was held to just 19 minutes due to foul trouble, but was able to stay on the floor in his final shift and finish with 10 points and seven rebounds.

Aminu had 10 points on 4-9 shooting, in addition to his stellar defense on Kawhi. Harkless had 11 points on 5-9 shooting, as well as three big steals.

Layman (13 points, seven rebounds) and Seth Curry (nine points) led the bench production offensively, while Zach Collins, who earned the second-half back-up center minutes, anchored the defense in an impressive performance during the team’s comeback run.

Leonard was hesitant to shoot, but did give the team 19 minutes with Nurkic in foul trouble.

Rodney Hood had a dreadful night, going 1-6 from the field as his shooting struggles continue.

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The Blazers travel to Charlotte to take on the Hornets on Sunday, with tip-off scheduled for 10am PT.