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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Toronto Raptors Preview

Portland will try to salvage a win on the last game of the road trip with a victory over the struggling Raptors.

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Toronto Raptors John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (19-19) vs. Toronto Raptors (16-23)

The Portland Trail Blazers are in a bit of a funk. Losers of six of the last eight, they really need a win to get some confidence back. The likely return of Gary Payton II certainly couldn’t hurt in that effort. If the Blazers can make shots like they are capable of and cut down on the turnovers they should have a very good shot against the Toronto Raptors this afternoon.

The Raptors are in a pretty bad spot of their own. Winners of only three of the last 13, the Raptors might need a win even more than the Blazers. Toronto is in the middle of a run of nine out of 10 games at home, and so far they’ve only managed one win out of five of those home games. If either team wants to make the playoffs this is the kind of game that they need to put in the win column.

Trail Blazers vs. Raptors- Sunday, January 8 - 12:30 p.m. PT

How to watch on TV: Root Sports Plus, NBA League Pass

Blazers injuries: Nassir Little (out), Justise Winslow (out), Jusuf Nurkic (probable), Gary Payton II (probable)

Raptors injuries: Otto Porter Jr. (out)

SBN Affiliate: Raptors HQ

The Matchup

  • Fred VanVleet. VanVleet is getting a lot of criticism this season, and his stats are indeed mostly down. His three-point percentage of 32.5% is especially troubling for Raptors fans. Is he a primary cause for Toronto’s problems or is his reduced production merely a symptom? Regardless, the Blazers are likely to see a lot of him on the court as the Raptors don’t have a solid backup point guard. Make no mistake though, VanVleet is still a primary source for buckets and he’ll probably put up numbers against the Blazers. Hopefully not enough to be the difference maker.
  • Shooting. Why is Toronto sitting in twelfth place in the West, currently out of the playoff picture? They can’t hit the broad side of a barn, especially from deep. The Raptors are 28th in the NBA in field goal percentage at 44.7%, and dead last from deep at 32.4%. Lately the Blazers have a disturbing tendency to help struggling teams find their shooting touch. Making sure that doesn’t happen again is of vital importance.
  • Turnovers. One of the more disturbing aspects of the Blazers’ recent form has been turnovers. The raw number of them has been too high, but the bigger issue has been the timing of them. When they come in bunches as they have for Portland recently, it’s a massive momentum killer. Take Friday in Indiana for example. After a brilliant 10-0 run to start the game, the Blazers committed four turnovers before scoring another point, allowing Indiana to tie the game. Portland had all of the momentum in the world and it was quickly squandered. Don’t count on Toronto to give the Blazers any breaks by making a ton of turnovers themselves. The Raptors lead the league in committing the fewest of them.

What Others Are Saying

With Fred VanVleet a potential free agent this summer, things are going to be tricky for the Raptors, according to Jack Maloney of CBS Sports.

At this point, the Raptors are trapped in a vicious cycle with this roster. They need VanVleet on the floor as much as possible to stay competitive, but the more he plays, the more he breaks down. The more he breaks down, the worse he plays. The worse he plays, the more the Raptors lose. The more the Raptors lose, the more they need to play VanVleet to try to get back on track.

Aaron Rose of All Raptors writes that the new 10-day signing, Joe Wieskamp, isn’t likely to get a lot of minutes.

Even with the bench struggling to provide much support for Toronto, Wieskamp isn’t likely to see anything more than garbage time minutes if he does see the court. He’ll have five games and a handful of practices to prove that he warrants another look. If he does, the Raptors can offer him a second 10-day before he’d have to be signed to a guaranteed deal.

The Raptors aren’t very good. Josh Kern of Raptors HQ says there is lots of blame to go around, but points the finger mostly at the front office.

It’s easy to blame the players: Fred VanVleet is slumping, Scottie Barnes hasn’t progressed, Chris Boucher can’t shoot, etc. And yeah, they do deserve some of the blame… but so does Nick Nurse, and so do Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster.

If you haven’t read about about the end of regulation between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Raptors on Wednesday you have to check out Lachard Binkley’s description of the craziness on SBNation.

With 36 seconds left in the game, the Bucks had a 99.9 percent chance to win. The Bucks were outscored 18-2 in the last 1:14. You heard that right: in one minute and 14 seconds, the Bucks gave up 18 points.