Depleted Raptors look to capitalize vs. struggling Trail Blazers

NBA Basketball
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The Portland Trail Blazers play another team with a winning record Tuesday night when they visit the Toronto Raptors, and that does not bode well for them.

After losing 122-111 to the host Miami Heat on Sunday, the Trail Blazers are 3-13 against teams with winning records. The Blazers have lost six of their past seven games overall, and are 1-2 during their five-game road trip.

The Raptors won the first meeting between the teams 114-106 on Nov. 13 at Portland.

Pascal Siakam, who scored 36 points in that game, will not play Tuesday. The Raptors are 5-4 since Siakam (groin), Marc Gasol (hamstring) and Norman Powell (shoulder) all were injured in the same game, a road victory over the Detroit Pistons on Dec. 18.

To add to the Raptors’ injury woes, Fred VanVleet (hamstring) will be listed as doubtful for Tuesday.

The Raptors are coming off a 121-102 victory over the host Brooklyn Nets on Saturday in which VanVleet scored 29 points and added 11 assists. VanVleet had 30 points in the first game against Portland.

VanVleet left the game Saturday with about two minutes to play and went directly to the dressing room after feeling tightness in his hamstring.

During the Raptors’ practice Monday, VanVleet was in treatment.

“Freddy is being checked,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse told reporters. “He’s going to be questionable for (Tuesday). Doubtful, whatever.”

As for the other injured players, Nurse said, “I think we’re still a ways away from Marc and Pascal (returning). Norm and Matt (Thomas) are in the front-view mirror, let’s put it that way.”

Thomas, who has been out with a broken finger since November, is expected to be available Tuesday.

The Trail Blazers were without CJ McCollum on Sunday because of a respiratory infection as they faced a Miami team without Jimmy Butler.

“It’s tough not having (McCollum),” said Blazers guard Damian Lillard, who had 34 points and 12 assists Sunday. “But they didn’t have their best player (Butler), so it’s not really much of an excuse. We just didn’t compete hard enough to start the game and we dug a hole. It’s hard to dig out of that on another team’s floor.”

The Trail Blazers had 21 points and 18 rebounds from Hassan Whiteside while Carmelo Anthony had 11 points on 3-for-11 shooting from the field.

“We missed shots and they got the rhythm offensively and we were on our heels the whole first half,” Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “When that happens, you have to compete that much harder. I thought we competed harder in the second half.”

In Brooklyn, the Raptors fell behind by 11 points in the first quarter.

“I think from the four-minute mark of the second quarter onward we really got down to a plan,” Nurse said. “We were into the ball. We were making catches tough. Everything was pretty tough. When Brooklyn did take it to the rim, which they can do very well, we were better … protecting. We were better cracking in on the bigs so there wasn’t that little dump off there as much. Just much more energy and toughness.”

The Raptors’ aggressive, ever-changing defense has been effective. In the first game between the teams this season, Lillard was held to nine points.

–Field Level Media

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