Trail-blazing Toronto gets big boost from Lowry
No matter what city they visit lately, the Toronto Raptors feel right at home.
Kyle Lowry scored 27 points and the Raptors won their franchise-best seventh straight road game on Monday night with a 95-91 victory over the skidding Portland Trail Blazers.
It was the second stop on Toronto’s six-game swing western swing, which will take the Raptors (22-8) to tough places like Golden State and San Antonio.
But home or road these days, Toronto is a very difficult opponent. The Raptors’ usually prolific offense was slowed by Portland’s trapping defense, but they found a way to pull out a highly competitive game in which neither team led by more than six.
Toronto, which had reached 100 points in 16 consecutive games, used its defense and gritty play during the final five minutes to win its fourth in a row.
“A few years ago our guys would have kicked that one away by 15 or 20 points,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said.
Toronto ran into a shorthanded but extremely motivated Portland team that ultimately lost its sixth straight.
The Blazers (13-20) were without star guard Damian Lillard, who sat out with a sprained ankle. Lillard, averaging 27 points, was injured last Friday against San Antonio.
“Dame not playing, that’s a big chunk of potential a 30-, 40-point game, but they’re still a very talented team. It was a tough task for us either way,” said Toronto guard DeMar DeRozan, who just missed his first triple-double of the season with 20 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.
DeRozan moved within 14 points of tying the franchise record of 10,275, held by Chris Bosh.
C.J. McCollum scored 27 points to lead the Blazers, who have lost 10 of 11.
Toronto kept Portland’s runs to a minimum. The Raptors were particularly effective down the stretch, when they took the lead for good at 82-81 with 5:50 remaining on two free throws by Jonas Valanciunas.
“We got every rebound that came off a long shot, and that gave us an opportunity to keep the game in our favor,” DeRozan said.
“We knew early on we were missing a lot of easy shots, and that we’d have to rely on our defense. That’s what we did.”
Toronto, averaging 112 points this season, scored 43 during the first half and only 22 in the fourth quarter. Portland’s blitzing, trapping defense made life difficult for the Raptors. Lowry and DeRozan combined to make 16 of 40 shots.
“Their defensive scheme was unbelievable tonight. Their bigs moved their feet well and I had a couple of turn- overs trying to get around them,” Lowry said.
“It might have been our best defensive game of the season. We played with a lot of energy,” said Portland coach Terry Stotts.
Patrick Patterson scored 15 points for Toronto, while Valanciunas had 12 points and 12 rebounds.
Portland’s Mason Plumlee had his fifth double-double of the campaign with 13 points and 15 rebounds.
Neither team could find an offensive rhythm in the first half. Toronto grabbed a 43-42 halftime lead on a DeRozan free throw with two seconds left in the second quarter. The 43 first-half points given up by Portland tied a season low.
Stotts wouldn’t speculate on whether Lillard would play in Portland’s next game, on Wednesday against Sacramento. Even though his team was missing its All-Star guard, Stotts wasn’t discouraged by the offensive performance.
“The offense was OK. I don’t know what we were really expecting, but we moved the ball well,” Stotts said.
“We didn’t finish in the fourth quarter, but in the fourth sometimes it’s hard to score.”
Portland Trail Blazers’ C.J. McCollum steals from Toronto Raptors’ Kyle Lowry during the second half of their NBA game at Moda Center in Portland, Oregon, on Monday. The Raptors won 95-91.