Home away from home
Despite the Blazers’ record this was a big road win in a hostile environment.
Portland had won their last five games and held opponents to just 94 points per game. Dwane Casey’s team came out aggressive, scoring 37 in the first quarter on its way to putting up 110.
Toronto is now 18-7 against teams under .500. It improves to 16-10 on the road.
Lowry shot some heat-check triples from Stephen Curry range on Thursday. Out of his 10 attempts Lowry connected on seven three-pointers, tying a career high.
Lowry gets a lot of his threes on catch-and-shoots which lends well to taking them off the ball rack in a three-point competition. He’s also taken shots inside Air Canada Centre more than any of the other contestants aside from dark horse Chris Bosh.
Curry and his splash brother Klay Thompson are the clear favourites but Lowry is a strong sleeper pick given how well he’s shot the ball of late.
Lowry logging big minutes
It was another 40-minute performance for Lowry on Thursday.
The Raptors starting point guard is averaging 38.9 minutes per game over the team’s last 10 outings. It’s fine now because the Raptors are winning and Lowry is playing well, but it could become an issue come April.
Lowry slowed down during the second half last season and completely broke down in the playoffs in 2015.
During Toronto’s hot stretch it’s had many games where sloppy stretches brought double-digit leads back to single possession games. The same was the case against Portland.
That aspect will have to change and Lowry’s minutes will have to come down if he’s going to keep up his strong play and help the team continue to win in the playoffs.
JV for the blogosphere
Over the last two years the online Raptors mafia would complain when Casey refused to play Jonas Valanciunas in the fourth quarter and/or against small-ball lineups. This year Casey has changed course and given the big man extended minutes in crunch time.
With Noah Vonleh unavailable, the Blazers were forced to go small from the outset. Casey showed trust in Valanciunas and he repaid his coach’s faith.
Despite a quick two fouls (one that was later rescinded and accredited to Norman Powell) and an early trip to the bench the big Lithuanian had an impact, scoring 14 points, collecting 11 rebounds and coming up with two blocks to go along with a 50 per cent shooting night.
So this happened?
All-Star weekend is all about one-on-one competitions, but this one was unexpected.
Randomly Reggie Miller challenged Toronto rapper Drake to a ping pong competition on Twitter. Naturally the “Six God” accepted the challenge from the former NBA sharpshooter.
Miller has the reach advantage on him but given the amount of idle time Drake spends on tour buses and in recording studios I’d make him the betting favourite.
Super Stat: This was the Raptors’ first win in Portland since Dec. 27, 2006. Lowry became just the second Raptors player to record seven three-pointers and two blocks in a game. Morris Peterson was the other who did it in 2005 against the Boston Celtics.