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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Toronto Raptors Preview

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The Blazers look to pick up another win in Florida.

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NBA: Toronto Raptors at Portland Trail Blazers Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (27-18) vs Toronto Raptors (18-27)

The Portland Trail Blazers play the Toronto Raptors in Tampa Bay on the third game of a four game road trip. The Blazers are looking to stay perfect so far on their road trip with this game being their possible third straight win. The Raptors have struggled as of late, losers of 10 out of their last 11 games and are looking to get their season back on track.

Sunday, March 28 - 4:00 p.m. PT
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, NBA League Pass or see games all season on fuboTV
Blazers injuries: Zach Collins (out), Nassir Little (out), Damian Lillard (questionable)
Raptors injuries: DeAndre’ Bembry (out), Paul Watson (out), Patrick McCaw (questionable)
SBN Affiliate: Raptors HQ

What To Watch For

  • Rodney Hood, Gary Trent Jr. and Norman Powell. Playing a team that traded you for the first time can make a player want to prove that team wrong, but playing your former team three days after they traded you? All three of the players involved in the trade that brought Norman Powell to the Blazers will have a fire lit under them when they play their former teams, and which one or ones of those three plays the best could swing the game in the favor of their new team.
  • Jusuf Nurkic. Nurkic looked good in his return, scoring eight points and grabbing eight rebounds in his first game since January. Nurkic will most likely continue to be on a minutes restriction for the next couple games, but his minutes will probably increase every game as he gets more comfortable playing again. Nurkic’s return should help the terrible defense of the Blazers, as he has served as an anchor for the Blazers in the past, but looked like a shell of what he has been in the past earlier this year. The Blazers will need the Jusuf Nurkic of two years ago, before breaking his leg, if they hope to compete for home court advantage in the playoffs.
  • Defense. The Blazers have played a depleted Heat team and an Orlando team that just traded three starters and still let up 227 total points between the two games. The Raptors will be the first team the Blazers play on their road trip that isn’t missing significant members of their offense, and the difference in this game will be how well the Blazers can defend a struggling Raptors team. The Blazers don’t want to be the defense that allows the Raptors offense to get back on track, and to do that they need to be locked in for this game.

What Others Are Saying

Josh Kern of Raptors HQ talked about the glaring hole at center for the Raptors and how it affected them in their loss to the Suns.

If anything showcased the Raptors’ glaring need for a centre, it was playing against DeAndre Ayton last night. Ayton is a solid young player, probably underwhelming for a former #1 overall pick, but he offered up the full gamut of things you need from a big man: the ability to grab the ball above the rim and finish (having Chris Paul to set you up obviously helps with this); rebounding, often simply by being bigger than everyone else; and rim protection, including simply deterring drivers with his size.

In other words, all of the things this Raptors team is lacking. And this isn’t just me picking on Aron Baynes, who was awful again last night; the results speak for themselves.

Daniel Reynolds of Raptors HQ gives his take on the Raptors’ trade with the Blazers and what it means for the future of the Raptors.

So did the Raptors “win” this trade? As always with the best trades, yes and no. Right now, the Blazers win because they definitely got the best player in the deal. The almost-28-year-old Norm will slot right into place as Portland’s weak-side attacker and shooter and is, right now, better than both Trent Jr. and Hood at both of those elements of the game. (It’s very safe to say Powell will stay better than Hood too.) The Blazers need help to get over the hump in the playoffs, and Powell can help them do that.

At the same time, the Raptors win by looping back to essentially a younger version of Powell, the 22-year-old Trent Jr. — in his third year as a 37th pick in the 2018 Draft — who operates as roughly the same calibre of shooter, possesses some solid defensive utility, and, as per Ujiri, is a player with “really, really good upside.”

Scott Rafferty of NBA.com included quotes from Norman Powell about what will be going through his mind playing his former team just after being traded.

“Definitely going to be a little weird,” Powell said when asked about what it’s going to be like playing the Raptors.

“I don’t know. I feel like there’s going to be a lot of emotions, seeing everybody, coaches and stuff still calling, texting me. I feel like it’s going to be a little weird, but I’m going to be locked in and ready to go at them once the ball goes up.

“I don’t have friends in this league when we’re in between the lines. Talk to them before but once that ball goes up, they’re opponents and I’m trying to get a win and help this team win.