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News / Sports / Blazers

Tough Toronto test awaits Blazers

By Erik Gundersen, Columbian Trail Blazers Writer
Published: February 3, 2016, 8:26pm

TUALATIN, Ore. — The Portland Trail Blazers have taken care of business during the middle of their seven-game home stand. They have beaten sub-.500 team after sub-.500 team, with almost all of them coming in comfortable fashion.

But Thursday presents a different challenge when the Blazers close out their seven-game home stand against the 33-16 Toronto Raptors.

“Dynamic backcourt to begin with,” head coach Terry Stotts said of the challenges the Raptors present. “They’re scoring the ball really well. They get to the basket, they get to the 3-point line. So that’s the first challenge.”

Thursday’s matchup against Toronto’s All-Star backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan figures to test the Blazers’ recent progress on the defensive end.

The last five games have also been a feather in the cap for the Blazers defense, which has struggled with consistency for much of the season.

In four of their five wins, they have held their opponents under 100 points and have posted a defensive rating of 97.9 points, according to NBA.com over those five games.

“I think we’ve been better in pick and roll,” Damian Lillard said. “We’ve done a great job of helping each other out. We’ve been more physical. Our presence on the ball has been better.”

But Lillard also brings up a valid point when it comes to this juicy matchup against Lowry and his buddy DeRozan, with whom he shares an agent.

“Offensively, we have to go at them,” Lillard said. “Just like we have done before everybody else. Talking about big guards and us having to guard people but people have to guard us too. Nobody seems to mention that. We going to take the challenge defensively. I think it’s going to be a huge game for us.”

The Blazers will have to be careful with their hands against DeRozan, who is third in the league in free-throw attempts per game behind Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins and Houston’s James Harden.

Vonleh doubtful, rotation uncertain

The Blazers will likely be without starting power forward Noah Vonleh on Thursday after the second-year forward sprained his left ankle in Tuesday’s win over Milwaukee.

The team listed Vonleh as doubtful and he did not participate in practice, though it was a light day for the Blazers all around.

Lillard said that he was lifting weights with Vonleh in the weight room but told reporters after practice that he was unaware of Vonleh’s status.

Stotts, as usual, declined to indicate whom he will put in Vonleh’s place at power forward if he does not play.

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Columbian Trail Blazers Writer