The Toronto Raptors face off against the Portland Trail Blazers at Scotia Bank Arena in a must-win matchup!
This afternoon, the Toronto Raptors will take on the Portland Trail Blazers at Scotia Bank Arena in a matchup that may be just what the doctor ordered. The Blazers have been struggling late in games, having missed their last 13 shots while falling to the Indiana Pacers 108-99 on Friday.
Meanwhile, the Raptors are also looking to get back on track after a 112-108 loss to the New York Knicks despite an incredible 16-point comeback with 4:03 remaining in the fourth quarter. They also dropped Wednesday's game against Milwaukee after rallying from 21 points in the final 3:50 of regulation, only to lose in overtime.
Portland is also struggling right now after a hot start!
The Portland Blazers are in the midst of a rough stretch. They've lost seven of their past ten games and six straight on the road. And in those three most recent losses, Portland was ahead but unable to close out games and secure victories.
Damian Lillard has acknowledged this issue, stating that they just haven't been able to perform well at crucial moments to close games. He had 19 points and 8 assists in one loss but could only amass four points and go 1-for-5 from the field in the fourth quarter.
Portland isn't at full strength, either. Justise Winslow, Nassir Little, and Ibou Badji are all sidelined for the Blazers tonight. In addition, Gary Payton II and Jusuf Nurkic are also listed as probable, and even if they play, they won't be 100%
Damian Lillard is the pack's leader of this Blazers team, and Toronto knows that. The Raptors have to get back to their championship defence and take the superstar out of the game by sending a relentless wave of pressure his way.
Pascal needs to get back to his MVP form.
Pascal Siakam's red-hot season has been deviating in the past couple of games as the Toronto Raptors' All-NBA forward is receiving extra defensive attention in the forms of double and triple teams. Despite 18 points, 13 rebounds double-double in the loss against the Knicks Friday night, he could not make shots with high efficiency, with only four of his fourteen attempts in the net. This was Pascal's second straight game that he failed to score 20+ as his streak of 8 games with 25+ points, a Franchise-tying record, came to an end against the Bucks on Wednesday after putting up only 11 points with 4 of 18 shooting. The Raptors need Pascal to reignite their dwindling fortunes and turn on the afterburners once again if they are to salvage what remains of this season. The Raptors will only go as far as Pascal will take them.
It has become clear now – it is time for Siakam and the Raptors to find an answer to this defensive clampdown. His impressive offensive run cannot come back alive until the team figures out how to maneuver him past double and triple teams already deep into the scouting report on how to sniff out weaknesses. The Raptors need more off-ball movement around him to take advantage of the double and triple teams constantly thrown at him.
The name of the game is consistency for Scottie Barnes.
Scottie Barnes has been struggling to stay consistent all season, to say the least. Wednesday night against the Bucks, he scored 0 points through 3 quarters and then exploded for 19 points in the fourth and overtime. Against the Knicks on Friday, he shot 2 of 10 from the field and only tallied 7 points.
It's clear that the reigning Rookie of the year flourishes near the basket. However, Nick Nurse's offence fails to get him touches closer to the basket. Barnes needs to be aggressive and look for his opportunities. Shooting threes should not be the go-to option. Instead, he should use his size and athleticism to get inside, where he thrives.
Toronto desperately needs him back to form, as increasing Barnes' production starts with empowering him. Beforehand, however, they'll need to deploy better offensive strategies or create more space at the rim and ensure that his offensive touches translate into productivity around the rim.
Tonight is the night for Scottie Barnes to shine. He needs to stay focused and trust his instincts. With Toronto playing an undersized Portland Blazers, they have the advantage here with a size difference in Toronto's favour, so Nick Nurse must get the ball down low to Scottie to take advantage of his strengths and get him going early in the game.
We need more from our bench!
The Raptors' bench is a situation of disappointment and ineffectiveness. They've totalled only 29 points over the last three games put together. We need more punch from the reserves to steady up our ship and start winning games again. Our starting lineup has been consistent in recent times, but that's no excuse for our bench players to slack off. We have to step up and give them something they can rely on.
There may be some hope in the form of Joe Wieskamp, who was recently signed onto a 10-day contract from Wisconsin Herd of the NBA G League. He had an average of 17 points and six rebounds during his 13-game time there, so he could be exactly what Toronto needs for this dark hour.
Let's get this one for "The North."
It's time to rally the troops and fight for what we believe in. We must dress up in our home colours, show up with attitude and passion, and make this court ours. Our pride and identity are on the line tonight. We need to take back what is rightfully ours, finally!
This isn't just about one game, this is about something bigger. It's about our team cohesiveness, believing in ourselves and coming together as one. Let's block out all distractions and focus on getting that W on our home court.
Let's go Raptors!