Toronto Raptors may get to the point that the ACC feels like they are on the road. It is a brief stop over for the Raptors to take on Portland before they hit the road for a murderous 5 game road swing. Given the Raptors history on west coast trips, to steal a game vs the Blazers would be big for team moral. But the Blazers are a solid club above .500 in the tough Western Conference. Still no word on if Bargnani or Bayless will be back. Seems like Bayless is more likely than Bargnani at this point.
Raptors in the 4 games without Bargnani are 122-280 from the field shooting 43.5% they have only averaged 77.75 points in those games. That is not going to win you many basketball games. While the Raptors miss him on the defensive end as well, it is his offence that is what they miss most. In that time with no Bargnani, Demar DeRozan is just 24/63 for 38% from the field and is averaging just 14.7 points per game. That is just a 0.4 increase in his scoring from his season average. You can make the argument that things become a lot harder for Demar with Bargnani out. Not only does he become a bigger target for defences, but the spacing on the floor changes without Bargnani. Making it more of a challenge to get to the rim.
As for the Blazers when a team basically has lost 2 first round picks to injuries and is able to be this good you have to be impressed. Greg Oden has been a bust and Brandon Roy was not a bust but is done far to soon. Still the Blazers have kept on keeping on. Adding talent like Gerald Wallace and Raymond Felton to play with Lamarcus Aldridge who is rounding into one of the top power forwards in the game. Oh and they also added Jamal Crawford who is one of those "Raptor Killers" and is coming in off a 22 point game for him recently. Portland after a surprising 4-2 start have lost 4 of their last 5. The lone win against the NBA owned and New Orleans operated Hornets. Who are struggling much like the Raptors. As proof the NBA schedule is not kind to anyone this is the 5th of 6 games on the road for Portland on a trip has seen them bounce around North America.
Ball Movement: Blazers have 6 players that average 10 points or more and average 21.6 assists per game. Raptors need to do what they can to keep the Blazers from sharing the rock. Meantime the Raptors on offence need to pass the rock a lot better. There have been too many turnovers and not enough ball movement. In everyone of the games the Raptors have won part of that winning formula has been excellent ball movement.
Win on the Glass: Portland you would think would have an advantage on the glass but they have been out rebounded on the season by the average 2 a game. They do hold a slight advantage on the offensive glass. Raptors can not afford to give up second chances to this team they will make you pay for it.
Get to the Line: Raptors have not exactly got the benefit of calls on this road trip. Well now you are at home take advantage of it and attack the basket and get to the line. A first quarter like we saw in the last game with Boston is unacceptable. You have to get to line in the NBA and get some easy points. The Raptors shooting troubles at times make that even more vital.
Raptors will be hard pressed to find the winners circle but will attempt to do it at 7PM game is on TSN 2 and you can catch me tweeting my face off during the game @Dinonationblog on Twitter as always.