Originally written December 10, 2012 on NorthWest Sports Beat:
Easy part of the schedule? The Portland Trail Blazers opened the 2012-13 season against playoff hopefuls and perennial contenders in their first six games. This was supposed to the easy part of their schedule, yet they’re just 4-6 since that “easy” part of their schedule began Nov. 12. Matchup: Portland (8-12) vs. Toronto Raptors (4-16) Venue: Rose Garden Arena Time: 7:00 PM PT Date: Monday, Dec. 10, 2012 Portland will play host to the Toronto Raptors Monday night, and while you like their chances against a 4-12 Eastern Conference opponent, nothing is a guarantee for this young Blazers squad at this point in the season. Game Notes/How They Match Up If you like offense, Portland versus Toronto is going to be the game for you Monday night. Kyle Lowry was one of the player the Portland Trail Blazer targeted during the 2012 offseason. (Photo: US PRESSWIRE) Neither team should be considered elite on the offensive end of the floor—they are 14th and 16th in points per game—but they both have a tendency to give up a ton of points to their opponents. One area where both teams struggle defensively is in transition. They are ranked 25th and 26th in opponent fast break points per game, and both have had trouble stopping teams that play at a frantic pace this season. Defense isn’t the only area, though, where these teams struggle in transition. Despite each squad having the talent to get out and run, they are 27th and 28th in transition points per game. Both teams are going to get open looks in this one, which means it will likely come down to which group is taking advantage of their opponent’s poor defense. What to Watch: Portland The Raptors are the third-worst team in the league when it comes to defending the three-point line. Deep-range shooting has been an area where Portland has found success this year, so they’ll look to take advantage of any open opportunities. The Blazers have a handful of decent shooters. Damian Lillard has proven that his jump shot can translate the NBA game, as he’s shooting 38.2 percent from the three-point line. Wesley Matthews is leading the starters in three-point percentage, and Nicolas Batum have also been reliable this year. One play to watch out for in this game is Luke Babbitt. He’s earned more minutes the past four games than any other stretch this season, and a big reason for that is his shot from long range. If he gets the same kind of minutes against Toronto, he could be one player who takes full advantage of their poor defense. What to Watch: Toronto Like the Trail Blazers, an area to watch for the Toronto Raptors is the three-point shot. Their star player DeMar DeRozan won’t threaten the Blazers much from behind the arc. However, newcomer Mickael Pietrus, Jose CCalderon and Kyle Lowry have a tendency to kill teams from deep range. Lillard will match up against a point guard who was on Portland’s radar this past summer. (Photo: Ned Dishman/Getty Images) The Raptors are only shooting 34.5 percent from behind the three-point line this season, but they have the talent to make the Blazers pay if their defense isn’t locking down Monday night. Key Matchup Heading into the 2012 NBA offseason, it was no secret that the Trail Blazers needed a point guard. They were coming off one of their worst point guard experiments in team history in Raymond Felton, and the only question was, where do they target their next floor general? Portland opted to draft Damian Lillard with sixth pick in the draft, and it’s safe to say he’s lived up to the hype. However, another target that the Blazers had their eye on was Kyle Lowry, who is playing at a very high level for the Raptors this season. The two floor generals will face off Monday night, and it should be one of the more entertaining matchups from start to finish. Both players like to push the tempo, but it’s the younger Lillard who has shown he can stay in control better this year. The two of them are very good athletes, and while Lowry is the better defender at this point, the two will challenge one another in both fast-break and half-court sets. Injury Report Portland: DAY-TO-DAY—Wesley Matthews, DOUBTFUL—Nicolas Batum Toronto: N/A Prediction The Trail Blazers dropped their first game at home following the seven-game win streak, but a matchup against the Toronto Raptors should help boost their confidence. Blazers 104 – Toronto 91 CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE BLAZERS BLOG IN OUR CLUBHOUSE TODAY AT NWSB!
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