On Sunday, the Toronto Raptors closed out their 3-game home stand against the Portland Trailblazers. It was the return of Norman Powell, who was traded to Portland for Gary Trent Jr and Rodney Hood. In a bittersweet reunion, fan-favourite Powell reunited with his former team and coaches after a whirlwind three days. The Trailblazers come into Amalie Arena with a 2 game win streak, while the Raptors look to get back in the win column.
It was a strong start for Toronto, who put up a season best 74 points at the half. Led by Pascal Siakam (26 points and 8 rebounds), for the second time in 3 days there were glimpses of how successful this squad can be. Despite the solid start, a scoring collapse in the 3rd got Portland back into the game and ultimately the 122-117 win.
It came down to the final 15 seconds. With the Trailblazers up 118-115, Norman Powell was sent to the line. He made two clutch free throws to put the game just out of reach for his former team. In his first game against the Raptors, he scored 13 points in 27 minutes. Powell was aggressive and aware, making 6 of 9 free throws on the night.
Portland’s back-court due of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum combined for 45 points, with Lillard adding 11 assists. Despite being held to 33% shooting, he was a perfect 6 for 6 from the line. Seven Trailbrazers scored in double-digits in the win.
After the game, Nick Nurse was asked about the teams lack lustre 3rd, and what he thought was the biggest turning point in the game. “5 straight turnovers [leading to ] missed opportunities” he told reporters. Toronto went 4+ minutes without making a basket. They were outscored 23-10 in that quarter (lowest scoring quarter all season) and it was a deficit they weren’t able to come back from.
Fred VanVleet, who finished with 20 points and 8 assists, talked about the missed offensive opportunities, and how it snowballed, as their energy dipped from the high level they showed early. Despite the loss, he went on to say he liked the teams fight and that they “gotta win a close one at one point”.
Toronto has struggled to close out tight games all season. Since December, they have lost 15 games within 5 points or less. 15 opportunities to win, but they’ve come up short. A huge positive has been Siakam and his solid play as of late. He has bounced back from his tough start and looks to be on a nice roll. With 26 games left to play, and the Play in Tournament within reach (2 games), there is a chance to make the playoffs. With 2 new additions, Nurse will need to quickly find the match up and rotations that work, while getting the new guys accustomed to Raptors ball.
Next up… Toronto faces a 12-33 Detroit Pistons. Tipoff is 8pm EASTERN at Amalie Arena.