Raptors begin road trip in Portland

The Toronto Raptors are in the west this week, as they begin a 6-game road trip against the Portland Trailblazers. While Toronto has struggled to reclaim homecourt, the team has faired well on the road with a 5-1 record. On Monday night, they faced CJ McCollum at the Portland Trailblazers. Despite a 6-8 record, Portland has won 5 of their first 6 games at home.

Led my McCollum’s 29 points, the Trailblazers handed the Raptors their 2nd loss on the road, 113-118.

Despite being questionable before the game due to an abdominal strain, Damian Lillard started and added 24 points and 8 assists. He’s had a slow start to the season, averaging 20 points per game, which is 8 points below his average last season.

Off the bench, Larry Nance Jr was perfect from the field going 7 for 7, with 15 points, while Anfernee Simons and Nassir Little added 8 points each. Norman Powell finished with 12 points against his former team.

It has been a difficult start for the Raptors. In both their most recent losses, the team battled hard but failed to convert key shots down the stretch. The team started strong, but was unable to consistently hit their shots.

OG Anunoby was on fire in the first half. He hit four 3-pointers in the first 12 minutes and had 20 points at the half. His shooting cooled, and he finished with 29 points in 40 minutes.

Pascal Siakam continued his steady return to action with 20 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists. He has looked impressive in his last 2 starts as he comes back from shoulder surgery.

In the loss, all of Toronto’s starters scored in double digits. But the bench has struggled. They were outscored 37-12. With the starting 5 logging big minutes, you wonder how much longer Nick Nurse will be able to push his starters.

He has shown that the priority is to develop the young players, but at what cost? In his first start of the season against Detroit, Goran Dragic put up 16 points in 28 minutes. With minutes going to Dalano Banton (who is averaging 5.1 points in 12 minutes), Dragic’s role is becoming more unclear. He has said he wants to play, and that it’s been an adjustment, but has remained professional and ready.

Should Nurse play him more to offset the heavy minutes on Fred VanVleet? It’s still early in the season and there’s still time to figure this all out, but at this stage and where Toronto wants to go, is development more important that winning?

NEXT UP – Toronto faces the Donovan Mitchell and the Utah Jazz. Tipoff is 9pm at Vivint Arena.

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