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Raptors win backcourt battle against Blazers

Lowry, DeRozan lead Toronto to 110-103 victory

By Erik Gundersen, Columbian Trail Blazers Writer
Published: February 4, 2016, 10:54pm

PORTLAND — Both coaches said before the game that they would be okay if they scrapped the scheduled five-on-five game in favor of a two-on-two match-up between the backcourts.

And either way you sliced it Thursday night, the Toronto Raptors left Portland victorious and the Blazers left with lessons to be learned.

Toronto defeated the Blazers 110-103, led by a combined 59 points and 12 assists from guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan.

Lowry and DeRozan entered Thursday as one of the most accomplished backcourts in the league this season, both All-Star selections.

Thursday featured two of the three backcourts in the league with two players averaging 20 points per game or more.

The Blazers backcourt played well on Thursday, but Thursday was a night that simply being good wasn’t good enough.

And when Lillard Time arrived, the clock ran out on the Blazers.

Damian Lillard had 27 points and 11 assists on a rough 8-for-20 shooting night while CJ McCollum pitched in 21 points and six rebounds.

Lillard scored 21 of his 27 points in the final period, all of which came in the final seven minutes of the quarter.

The Blazers defense, which had been a point of pride during their five-game win-streak, didn’t look as strong against the Raptors efficient, All-Star laden attack.

The Blazers post their defensive rating for every quarter in the locker room and on the board Thursday was a first quarter defensive rating of 161 — 1.61 points per possession — just over a 3-pointer every other possession.

“Our first quarter defense wasn’t even close to being good enough especially against a playoff team, a really good team like them,” Lillard said.

The Blazers struggled to slow down the Raptors duo in the early going as Lowry and DeRozan scored Toronto’s first 16 points.

The Raptors were given a gift when the referees rescinded a foul on starting center Jonas Valanciunas after he was initially called for two fouls in the first three minutes.

After the refs took it back, he went back into the game and destroyed the Blazers on the inside with his constant movement and bruising strength almost immediately.

Valanciunas finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds on 5-of-10 shooting and was the best big man in the game.

Allen Crabbe and Gerald Henderson helped the Blazers bench keep pace with a deep Toronto bench.

Crabbe scored 17 points off the bench and Henderson pitched in 10.

Meyers Leonard got the call down the stretch for the Blazers, but his outside shot would not cooperate, as he was 1-of-5 from downtown.

The Raptors could hardly miss from the outside, going 8-for-14 from the 3-point line in the first half and 12-of-19 for the game.

McCollum, on the same day it was announced he would participate in the NBA Skills Challenge at All-Star Weekend, carried the Blazers offensively through the first three quarters.

However, he was tough on himself after the game for having a team-high five turnovers.

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And he also delivered an honest assessment of the difference between themselves and their opponents.

“We see where we’re at right now and we’re not there,” McCollum said. “You have to be realistic with yourself, I had too many turnovers, that can’t happen. Those little plays right there swing the game.

Lillard’s barrage was not enough to help the Blazers overcome how much the Raptors outplayed them in the three quarter previous.

The Blazers had a chance down the stretch to get the game within one possession after Lillard got a steal, but McCollum missed a 10 foot jumper that would have cut the lead to three.

“I knew I had the pull up with Valanciunas under the basket,” McCollum said. “I know it’s a shot I’d hit 9 out of 10 easily. It was just a little short. Can’t happen,” he said. “It’s a good learning experience.”

The Blazers start a two-game trip Saturday in Houston before coming home to face the Rockets next Wednesday in the final game before the All-Star break.

Columbian Trail Blazers Writer