TORONTO -- I think, on the whole, the Portland Trail Blazers were in a little over their heads Sunday night against the Toronto Raptors -- even though Toronto's all-star guard, Kyle Lowry, sat this one out with an injury.
And a little more than a week ago, with Lowry out, I'm not sure I would have said that. But the Raptors added Serge Ibaka at the trade deadline and he was a game-changer in the Raps' 112-106 win over Portland.
Ibaka scored 18 points, hitting 8 of his 15 shots, and added 10 rebounds, two assists and two steals. And, of course, he did his usual outstanding job at the defensive end. He scored nine points in a key time from the 6:02 mark to 3:28 to play, acting like a go-to offensive player.
"He's a great addition to their team," said Portland guard Damian Lillard, who led the Trail Blazers with 28 points. "He's a great addition on both ends of the floor -- protecting the paint, being able to show and being active on pick and rolls. Offensively, he can shoot the ball. You saw tonight he was able to get on the block and score, shooting fadeaways and jump hooks. He's a really good fit on their team."
No kidding. And you have to give Ibaka credit. As a 20-year-old rookie in the league in 2009 he ran from shots -- a timid offensive player who averaged only five attempts per game. But he steadily worked on his offense from the outside in, first becoming a good three-point shooter and now adding a medium and short-range game to his arsenal. He's packing an effective field goal percentage of .625 this season.
He's going to be a big asset in the playoffs, when the Raptors just might have a legitimate shot at the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Portland jumped to a 12-point lead in the first quarter but it slipped away rapidly. The Blazers led by three after the first period and trailed by one at the half. Still, they were down by just a bucket heading into the final quarter. And this is in spite of allowing a bewildering 21-2 Toronto run from the end of the first half to the first minute and a half of the third quarter.
"Teams are going to make runs but I thought we could have done a better job of stemming the tide a bit," said Portland Coach Terry Stotts. "It's disappointing to lose a game but I thought we competed well."
Maurice Harkless, who took a pass on talking to the media after the game, scored 18 points, hitting seven of nine shots. But at times the Trail Blazers had a lot of trouble finding another scorer. CJ McCollum hit just six of his 19 shots and Allen Crabbe two of six. Al-Farouq Aminu, back in action again, played 29:21 and had 13 points and eight rebounds.
"I thought we played hard, but we had that run in the second quarter where we went up double digits and let them go on a run," McCollum said. "At the start of the third quarter they went on another mini-run and I thought that was the difference in the game.
"We've just got to continue to stick with it."
Portland's new center, Jusuf Nurkic, had a rough night. He made just three of nine shots and got worked over pretty well by Toronto's Jonas Valanciunas, who made seven of eight shots. Worse than that, Nurkic took a shot in the mouth in the fourth quarter that resulted in something being dislodged in his mouth. At first it appeared he might have lost a couple of teeth but word came later that he had two crowns dislodged and subsequently repaired. He was not available for comment after the game.
DeMar DeRozan led all scorers with 33 points -- 15 of them at the foul line, where he seems to live. This man gets calls the way Jordan used to get them -- whether they are actually fouls or not.
The Trail Blazers moved on to Detroit, where they conclude the road trip with a Tuesday game against the Pistons.