Raptors Takeaways: Bench unit shuts down potent Blazers attack

Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard drives to the basket on Toronto Raptors center Lucas Nogueira (Steve Dykes/AP)

The Toronto Raptors didn’t exactly match up well against the Portland Trail Blazers because of who was unavailable in the contest.

Toronto was in tough against Portland with Jonas Valanciunas missing his fourth game with a left ankle sprain and Serge Ibaka out with swelling in his right knee. However, the Raptors replacement bigs played better than their starters have all year. The Raptors improved to 2-2 on the road trip and 4-2 overall.

The Raptors have now won five straight against Portland. Here are some takeaways from a strong road win and Toronto’s most complete performance of the young season.

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DeMar Dominates Early

To start the game the Raptors were carried early by DeMar DeRozan, who had a hand in the Raptors first 12 points. DeRozan started 5-for-5, scoring 13 of Toronto’s first 15 points. He finished with 21 points in the first half, dominating with his footwork in the mid-range. DeRozan ended the game with 25 points, four assists and four rebounds. In a matchup of top NBA backcourts, Kyle Lowry and DeRozan had 44 points combined as Lowry finished with a 19-point and 10-rebound double-double.

Bebe Plays Big

After missing two games with a sprained ankle Lucas Nogueira came back and was inserted immediately in the starting lineup. Nogueira had 17 points and five blocks, both career highs. Bebe made accurate passes out of the high post and rolled and finished lobs at the rim.

Bench Brings the D

Led by their second unit, the Raptors played suffocating defence throughout the second quarter. In a stretch that broke the game open, Toronto surrendered just one field goal to Portland in the second frame and it took Portland until 5.4 seconds left in the quarter to get it. Portland finished with just six points on 1-for-17 shooting after scoring 29 points in the first quarter.

This marks the third time in team history the Raptors limited an opponent to one field goal in a quarter. Toronto outscored Portland by 19 in the quarter. The defensive effort was especially impressive because entering the game the Blazers were one of six teams to score 100 points in each of their games to start the season. Portland leads the NBA in three-point field goal percentage this season and Toronto’s perimeter defence held them to eight three pointers on 26 attempts.

The Raptors showed a glimpse of their defensive potential holding the No. 3 offence in the NBA to 85 points and 39 per cent shooting.

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The Big Kids Played Well

Toronto’s four, young frontcourt players entered Monday with a combined 217 games of NBA experience under their belt. Most of that was Nogueira’s 94 games. But the combination of Lucas Nogueira, Pascal Siakam, Jakob Poeltl and OG Anunoby combined for 33 points, 22 rebounds, seven blocks and were a plus-28.

Battle of the Boards

Rebounding was supposed to be an issue without Ibaka and Valanciunas against the best offensive rebounding team in the NBA. Toronto was plus-nine on the boards and plus-eight in terms of offensive rebounds while holding Portland to six.

Timely Opposition Tweets

The Blazers have one of the best team social media accounts in all of sports. The Blazers’ communications staff poked fun at themselves as they struggled to score against Toronto. Here is a sampling of their best work throughout the night. If you like a sense of humour with your basketball, give them a follow.

Powell Persistence

Norman Powell has really struggled offensively and his minutes have suffered because of it even though he has remained a starter. Powell played just seven minutes in the second half against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Powell bounced back and hit his first three-pointer since he made three threes on opening night versus Chicago. Powell came in to the game shooting only 29 per cent from the field. But he hasn’t let it impact his defence as he harassed C.J. McCollum to a 5-for-16 shooting performance. Powell finished a plus-11 even though he has scuffled offensively and was rewarded with 22 minutes of action in which he contributed three rebounds, one assist, one steal and two blocks.

Milestone for Lowry

Kyle Lowry passed Morris Peterson for fifth on the Raptors’ all-time scoring list. Lowry will pass Andrea Bargnani this year if he stays healthy.

Raptors 905 Roster

Raptors 905 made their cuts before media day, whittling their roster down to 10. The team boasts a franchise-high four Canadians including Ryerson product Aaron Best, Nike Crown league legend Richard Amardi, returning 905er Negus Webster-Chan, and Kaza Keane, who was one of four players who made the team via local tryout. Their season opener is Sunday.

Super Stat

The Raptors now have a league best plus-10.8 point differential.

Next Up

The Raptors road trip continues in Denver on Wednesday with an 8:30 p.m. ET tipoff.