Demar DeRozan is officially the Raptors sole survivor as we got word prior to the game from Jay Triano there would be no Amir Johnson. Despite the fact if it was up to Amir you got the impression from Triano he would have tried to play. So that means the only Raptor to play in ever game this season is Demar. Blazers know injuries as well, Oden, Roy, Camby and on and on. But the Blazers despite their injuries have managed to stay a float in tough Western Conference. Bargnani bashers will take note the Lamarcus Aldridge is on a tear of late as well. The man selected right after Bargnani in the 2006 draft. Also according to some was the guy Chris Bosh wanted too.
Away we went from the ACC. a steal by Sonny Weems, but then a turnover and Blazers throw it away. Sloppy start for both sides. It continues with an inbound pass that Sonny Weems was not able to handle. Almost 2 minutes before anyone got on the board Dante Cunningham would strike first blood for the Blazers. Weems and Aldridge would trade hoops after that and it was 4-2 Blazers with 8:45 to go in the first. First team to 70 wins? Raptors would go on a snail paced 5-0 run and make it 7-4 with jams from Davis and Weems along the way. Raps were off to a decent start all things considered up 13-8 on a Bargnani bucket that would draw a time out from the Blazers. The 2nd pick in the 2006 draft scores and the first pick answers on the other end make it 15-10 Raptors. Blazers got on a little run and forced Jay to burn a time out with score 17-14. Rudy three ball would bring the Blazers back to even. DeRozan would score and then another Rudy 3 and Blazers were back on top. Blazers in the end had a 23-19 lead after 1.
Raps perimeter D in transition was horrible, after a Dorsey two, the Blazers get a wide open Rudy 3 and that is bad math for Raps trailing 30-25 early in the 2nd. This was the Rudy Fernandez show and we were spectators he already had 11 off the bench for Portland. Mills a steal and you are not catching that Aussie he speedy to the easy score and Blazers were up 35-29. Blazers were pulling away from the Raptors getting it up to 40-29 before getting a basket. But another couple Rudy 3's and this was off the rails. Your halftime score was Blazers 55 and Raptors 47.
Raps were trying to at least hang around as they often do. Bargnani with a basket to cut the lead to 7. Raptors had Bargnani and DeRozan with 14 a piece. Ed Davis was doing a good job filling in for the missing rebounds from Amir with 11 boards on the night to this point. (He would finish with a career high 13) There were some positives but the one glaring negative of perimeter defence was overshadowing it all. But the Raptors would clean things up on the perimeter and shut out Fernandez in the second half. But that is where Lamarcus Aldridge took over. He had 25 of his eventual 37 points in the 2nd half. He had a point to prove as Toronto passed on him for Andrea Bargnani. Someone else with a point to prove was Jerryd Bayless. The Raptors took a 8 point half time advantage for Portland and chopped it down to just two points. The Raptors best quarter on defence on the night holding the Blazers to just 17 points.
The 4th was the story of two guys more or less. Jerryd Bayless got on a tear and was nailing 3 point shots at almost the same rate as Rudy Fernandez was in the first half. He exchanged words often with the Blazer bench as he was nailing shots. Post game when asked who was giving him a hard time and who he was chatter with he claimed "I forgot". But just like Bayless had a point to prove so did Aldridge. This was much like when the Bucks pounded Andrew Bogut at the Raptors down the stretch and in overtime to get a win. Only more so and it seemed in the last 6 minutes that everything was going to Aldridge and most of the time he was finishing it himself. After one time out down the stretch Jay Triano had some words for Andrea. When asked about it post game Bargnani also appears to have selective amnesia. He said there was no incident or exchange between him and Triano. It may well have been a one sided exchange with Triano just talking about his defence in likely not glowing terms. The defence might not have been better, but Bargnani to picked up his level of play as well on the night with 24 points 6 rebounds (Which For Andrea is like 12) and 4 assists. In the end it was to much LA for the Raptors and he willed the Blazers to a 102-96 win.
The Raptors were knocking on the door late but a play out of a time of that Jay revealed was called for Bargnani as the 1st option ended up in the hands of DeRozan as Bargnani was well cover. DeRozan would try for a three with the Raptors down 4 and it was not a good decision. Heading into last nice Demar was only 4 of 15 from 3 point range on the season. Why he didn't try to drive is perplexing. But talked with Demar pre-game and he talks about his confidence from this season to last season increasing. In this case the confidence was not warranted. But you do like the fact he is comfortable with making a play and taking a shot late in a game with the outcome in the balance. The line the you will keep hearing over and over from people that it is something he can learn from and grow from. As I had speculated the Raptors have reached 40 loses on the season prior to the All-Star Break. They become just the 3rd team to reach that low point, with Minnesota at 13-40, and the we didn't lose 27 in a row Cavs at 9-45. For all the losing the Cavs have done they sit only 4 games ahead or behind the Raptors depending on your point of view. For those that cheer lottery balls it is ahead, for those that don't it is behind. But clearly despite some solid play in the last two games the Raptors have nothing but two more L's and that ever talked about experience to show for it. Oh and for the record the Cavs beat the Clippers in OT. That should make them oh so happy as they roll into the ACC next. Clippers will be an angry bunch you have to figure and the Blake Griffin Show should be in full effect come Sunday.
I was able to talk with Reggie Evans and Demar DeRozan pre-game and those Interviews should be up some time over the weekend at the latest Monday. I say that but knowing how I am you likely will have both with in 24 hours. Back to work for me.