Back on track after a recent stumble, the Portland Trail Blazers will play host Monday to a Toronto Raptors’ team that is taking the court for the second time in two nights following a heartbreaking road loss to Golden State.
The Trail Blazers had Sunday off after dispatching the Sacramento Kings 125-99 on Saturday, their second consecutive victory after losing three of four. The Raptors will be in Portland following a 106-105 defeat against the Warriors when Pascal Siakam’s jumper at the buzzer would not fall.
On a night when Portland’s Damian Lillard struggled with his shot and scored 17 points, CJ McCollum stepped up with 37 points in the victory over Sacramento. It was McCollum’s second-highest scoring game on the young season behind his 44-point effort against the Houston Rockets the day after Christmas.
Lillard was just 5 of 16 from the field and an uncharacteristic 1 of 7 from 3-point range, although it was the third time in nine games Lillard had one made 3-pointer or less while taking at least seven shots from distance.
McCollum managed to go 13 of 22 from the field against the Kings and 6 of 11 from 3-point range. He also passed Rasheed Wallace (9,119) for 10th place on the franchise’s all-time scoring list. McCollum has 9,135 career points.
“Sheed is a great player who had a tremendous career, got a lot of respect for him,” said McCollum, who is scoring a career-best 27.9 points per game. “So to be able to accomplish something like that is definitely special. I’m just looking forward to continuing to get better each night and try to put on elite performances.”
The Trail Blazers’ defense continued to get better after the Warriors scored 137 points against them and shot 55.7 percent from the field on Jan. 3. Since then, the Trail Blazers have held their next three opponents to 44.0-, 41.9- and 40.7-percent shooting.
The Raptors are heading into the finale of their four-game west-coast road trip that also took them to Phoenix and Sacramento before Sunday’s game in the Bay Area. They are 1-2 on the trip so far. Siakam scored 25 points Sunday and Fred VanVleet had 21.
After opening the season 1-6, the Raptors had a much-needed offensive outburst Friday at Sacramento when they set a franchise record in a regulation game with 144 points. On Sunday, they had the lead in the closing seconds but a 33-19 scoring advantage in the fourth quarter was not enough.
“Going through a rough patch, you do have to have some conversations about, ‘What energy are we generating?’ among the coaching staff, all of the guys on the bench,” Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said. “Even in Phoenix (a 123-115 loss on Wednesday), I came out of that game saying the spirit of the team was very high.”
Finding the spirit, not to mention the energy, on Monday will be a challenge for Toronto, which has won eight of the last 10 matchups with the Trail Blazers. Over the past two seasons the teams have split the season series at a game each.
–Field Level Media