Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 1/2/13
TORONTO -- The Toronto Raptors are a different team than the one that lost to the Portland Trail Blazers last month. In their rematch with the Trail Blazers on Wednesday, the Raptors led all the way to record a decisive 102-79 victory before an announced crowd of 18,117 at Air Canada Centre. "It was totally different," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "Today, with our approach, we are a totally different team." The Raptors were led by rookie guard Terrence Ross, who came off the bench to score a career-best 26 points and also had five rebounds. They won their third game in a row and their eighth in their past nine. Toronto also ended an eight-game head-to-head losing streak to Portland that included four games at ACC. The Raptors consider their 92-74 loss at Portland on Dec. 10 a low point in a season that started poorly for them. Not only did they not play well, they lost Andrea Bargnani and Kyle Lowry to injury in that game. They lost their next game against the Brooklyn Nets then went on a five-game winning streak. "It was a crossroads for us," Casey said of the loss in Portland. "We started playing the game the right way -- sharing the basketball. We are more focused on the defensive end. "The game is about being professionals. This group has done that." DeMar DeRozan had 24 points for Toronto despite seeing little playing time in the fourth quarter, and Ed Davis added 19 points and seven rebounds. Reserve forward Amir Johnson scored 17 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Toronto point guard Jose Calderon did not score but had 13 assists. Lowry, who as backup point guard, also did not score but added nine assists. "We didn't play well from the opening tip," Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said. "We were on our heels the whole night. Toronto had a few days off and they've been playing very well, they've been playing with a lot of energy. I give them a lot of credit. Dwane has done a great job of turning things around and it's no fluke how well they've been playing." Rookie guard Damian Lillard led the Trail Blazers with 18 points and seven assists. LaMarcus Aldridge added 14 points and 10 rebounds for Portland. Wesley Matthews had 12 points, Joel Freeland scored 11 off the bench, and Nicolas Batum chipped in with 10. "This is a different team," Batum said of the Raptors. "This is not the same team that I saw three weeks ago. "It's crazy when I watched the video this morning and then watched the game tonight, this is a new team. This is not the same team. They played good. Give credit to their coaching staff and them, they did a good job." The Raptors (12-20) are off to a good start to a six-game homestand. The Blazers (16-15) entered with a two-game winning streak, including a 105-100 victory over the Knicks in New York on Tuesday. Portland had won eight of its previous 10 games. "I have a lot more confidence than I started out with," Ross said. "I'm getting adjusted to everything and I know my role. Yeah, it's a lot different than college. College is a lot slower now that I think about it. It kind of takes time and everyone gets adjusted at their own time so it's just a process." After scoring the first four points of the fourth quarter, the Raptors led 82-61. They pushed the lead up to 25 when Ross made his career-high sixth 3-pointer of the game with 1:06 to play. The Raptors opened the second half with a 15-point lead and showed no signs of letting up after DeRozan opened the scoring in the third quarter with a jump shot. Ross hit his fifth 3-pointer in six attempts with seven seconds left in the third quarter, and Portland's Sasha Pavlovic hit a 23-footer with one second left to leave Toronto with a 78-61 lead entering the fourth quarter. Toronto scored the game's first 10 points and led 24-17 after the first quarter. The Raptors led 55-39 at the half after Ross' 3-pointer beat the buzzer. Ross was 4-for-5 in 3-pointers in the half for 13 points, while DeRozan led all scorers in the half with 16. "There is no excuse for us," Lillard said. "They played harder than us. We put ourselves in a hole to start the game and weren't able to get out of it. I think that is the most amount of turnovers (18) that we've had all season." NOTES: Despite the Raptors' recent surge, Casey said the team is not yet thinking about the possibility of making the playoffs. "We're still digging ourselves out of a hole," he said before Wednesday's game against Portland. "We're taking it a game at a time, a quarter of a time. We have to continue to play as a team and play the game the right way." ... Casey said he still has no date for a possible return of forward/center Bargnani (right elbow). ...Toronto center Jonas Valanciunas (right ring finger) is still out. ... Blazers assistant coach Jay Triano was with the Raptors from 2000-10, most recently as vice president of pro scouting. He also was the team's head coach in 2009-10. ...The teams were playing for the second and final time this season. ... Portland center Meyers Leonard (right ankle) was on the inactive list for Wednesday's game, joining guard Elliot Williams (left Achilles tendon). ... The Raptors play at home against the Sacramento Kings on Friday. Portland plays the Grizzlies in Memphis on Friday.
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