Team Records: Portland (16-14) at Toronto (11-20)
Game Info: 4 PM-TV on CSNNW, Radio on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.
Vegas Line: Toronto -2
The Skinny: After an impressive win to open 2013 in New York on Tuesday the Blazers travel north of the border in search of a win over the lowly Raptors. The Raptors have actually been pretty good since the teams first met, going 7-2, albeit mostly against weak opponents. Toronto has done all this without Andrea Bargnani, who was injured early in their loss in Portland last month.
Last Time They Met: The Blazers won a strange game against the Raptors at home, winning fairly easily despite shooting a then record 0 of 20 from 3. Amir Johnson of the Raptors provided perhaps the night’s most memorable moment when, after his ejection, he threw his mouthpiece at the ref, earning himself a one-game suspension.
Projected Raptors Lineup:
PF-Ed Davis (North Carolina-3rd Season)-7.8 PPG, 6 RPG, 1 APG.
SF-Mikael Pietrus (France-10th Season)-6.7 PPG, 2 RPG, .5 APG.
C-Aaron Gray (Pittsburgh-6th Season)- 2.4 PPG, 2.4 RPG, .6 APG
SG-DeMar Derozan (USC-4th Season)-18.2 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 2 APG.
PG-Jose Calderon (Spain-8th Season)-10.3 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 7.6 APG.
Player to Watch-Jose Calderon (Pictured at right)-Its hard to think of a player that has been discussed more in trade rumors or debated more often whether he is indeed worth trading for than Jose Calderon. When healthy, Calderon is one of the best pure point guards in the league, running Toronto’s offense with precision, not shooting too often and capable of putting up a double double almost every night. Unfortunately, given that he was no defensive star to begin with, his injuries have sapped what lateral quickness he had and made him a liability against faster point guards on defense. Still, given that no one else on Toronto really passes the ball much on offense, Calderon is a valuable piece of Toronto’s puzzle.
Did You Know?: The Toronto Raptor who has played the most games for them is not someone you’d expect, not Chris Bosh nor Vince Cater. It is instead Morris Peterson, who played 542 games with the club between 2000 and 2007.
Song of the Day: “Blame Canada” from the South Park movie-Nothing wrong with a little classic south park song to liven up the start of 2013. Enjoy:
Portland: Out-SG Elliot Williams (Achilles), C Meyers Leonard (Ankle).
Toronto: Out-PF Andrea Bargnani (Elbow/Wrist), C Jonas Valanciunas (Finger).
Re-Evaluating Toronto: Why The Improvement?
The Raptors started this season absolutely horribly, holding a 4-17 record when they rolled into Portland less than a month ago. Since that loss, however, the Raptors have been on fire, going 7-2 the remainder of December. So what changed? Cynics claim that a large part is the absence of Andrea Bargnani, whose low efficiency offense has caused the Raptors many wins. However, what’s really changed is three things. First, DeMar DeRozan has been at his best the past month and has done an especially good job getting to the line on offense. Second, the Raptors bench has provided a spark, as it has produced at least three double digit scorers in five of the last six games. Third, the Raptors perimeter defense has been stifling, as they allowed teams to shoot only 30.5% from deep in December. Whether they can keep these three things up is questionable but for now Raptors fans are enjoying the ride.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They make 8 threes. Portland made 0 threes the last time the two teams played. If they can make 8, which is Portland’s average number of 3s made per game this seasons, they should be able to win.
Toronto wins if: Hold Portland under 100 points. The Raptors are not a great defensive team. Still, they did hold Portland under 100 last time and given their recent improvement, if they do so again, they probably win.