PORTLAND — The Trail Blazers were hurting.
It became clear when Wesley Matthews cut short his pregame workout that the Blazers would play without not one, but two starters on Monday night. Nicolas Batum had long decided that he needed to rest his bad back, but Matthews, stubborn until 80 minutes before tipoff, tried to push through the pain of a left hip flexor injury but could not.
And so, the Trail Blazers would be searching.
On any other night in the NBA, against any other opponent, this might have spelled disaster for the Blazers. However, the Toronto Raptors walked out of the visitor's locker room.
The shorthanded Blazers handled the Raptors, 92-74, beating a team that has lost 11 of its last 12 games.
The Blazers won their ninth game of the season and only an announced crowd of 16,863 saw it.
Those in the house watched as the Blazers scored 18 points through the first quarter and missed all 20 3-point field goal attempts through the game. But there was no mystery why the Blazers still prevailed — the marquee names for the Raptors were in the locker room long before the team finished the second half with just 34 points.
Portland might have been missing its best 3-point shooter (Batum) and its Iron Man (Matthews' streak of 250 consecutive games played came to an end). But the team still had its 2012 All-Star.
Although coach Terry Stotts joked in pregame that "we're going to ride LaMarcus!" the team did just that, leaning on the veteran power forward for 30 points (11 for 19) and 12 rebounds.
"(Stotts) told me this morning," Aldridge said. "'I'm going to play you a lot more tonight, so I knew from the start of the game to get more shots and it was my job to make shots for everybody else."
But the normality would come to an end with the fact that Aldridge earned his fourth consecutive double double. The Raptors matched the Blazers with injured starters when Andrea Bargnani (right elbow) and Kyle Lowry (right shoulder) had to leave the game. In the third quarter, Amir Johnson got upset when referee David Jones wouldn't let him take the ball after a free throw. The exchange turned into an ejection and an angry Johnson tossed his mouthpiece.
Way before then the night had already spiraled into weirdness moments after the tip — that's when Raptors' Mickael Pietrus propelled the first errant 3-point attempt in a game that produced a combined three-for-41 result beyond the arc. The Blazers were historically bad going 0 for 20 — which sets an NBA single-game record for most 3-point field goals attempted without a make.
"Yes, I know we broke a record. And for that record to be broken in a win is even more impressive," Stott said early in his post-game comments.
Then, after providing this spin: "So, got that out of the way."
More strangeness on the stat sheet: Victor Claver, who made his first ever NBA start in place of Batum, whiffed on 10 of 12 attempts but still finished with a better shooting percentage than the Western Conference Rookie of the Month Damian Lillard (2 for 14).
Lillard appeared to hobble off the court after a spill in the third quarter. While on the bench, Lillard grabbed his right ankle but returned during the team's 7-2 run near the start of the fourth quarter.
"Yeah, I'm fine," Lillard said about his ankle after the game.
While nothing seemed to pop on the perimeter, the Blazers, in a change of pace, had an inside game. Center J.J. Hickson made all seven of his shots and finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds, his team-leading 11th double double.
The Blazers also outscored the Raptors 54-26 in the paint.