Trail-blaz­ing Toronto gets big boost from Lowry

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS - By ASSOCIATED PRESS in Port­land, Ore­gon

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.

Sta­tus un­known

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.”

TROY WAYRYNEN / USA TO­DAY SPORTS

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.

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