Trail Blazers 109, Raptors 98
Not so long ago, coach Nate McMillan had a talk with Nicolas
Batum suggesting the forward get back to what has worked best for
him in the past: defense.
The 6-foot-8 Frenchman, in his second season, said McMillan told
him to “just play defense first, then the offense will come.”
It all clicked on Sunday night, when Batum scored 22 points,
making five of six 3-point attempts, to help the Portland Trail
Blazers a 109-98 victory over the Toronto Raptors.
“I let the game come to me,” Batum said.
LaMarcus Aldridge added 22 points and 12 rebounds for the
Blazers, who have won four straight and nine of 11. Brandon Roy had
Chris Bosh had 28 points and seven rebounds for the Raptors, who
have lost five straight, matching a season high.
The Blazers led by as many as 15 points, but Andrea Bargnani hit
a pair of free throws that pulled the Raptors within four before
Sonny Weems’ long jumper made it 93-91 with 6:15 left.
Portland kept Toronto at bay, going up 101-93 on Roy’s hook shot
and a pair of free throws from Batum.
With 1:11 left, Batum nailed a 3-pointer that sealed it.
“He’s going to get open shots just because who he’s on the
floor with,” McMillan said. “It’s just a matter of knocking those
shots down. Tonight, he knocked those 3s down and he can continue
to do that.”
Portland held the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western
Conference, five games in front of Memphis, and just a half-game
back of seventh-place San Antonio and a game back of Phoenix.
The Raptors were also in the eighth place in the Eastern
Conference, struggling while just a game up on Chicago.
“There no science to it. It’s not rocket science or brain
surgery. You just have to win,” Bosh said. “If you make it
complicated, it will be complicated. We just have to win games.
Toronto’s Hedo Turkoglu was close to signing with the Blazers
last summer as a free agent. The 6-foot-10 forward even came to
Portland and met with general manager Kevin Pritchard.
But the deal abruptly fell through and Turkoglu, who helped
Orlando to the NBA finals last season, agreed the next week to join
Turkoglu was booed loudly during pregame introductions.
Conversely, former Blazers guard Jarrett Jack received a warm round
Turkoglu then made a 3-pointer 19 seconds into the game.
But Aldridge got off to a quick start for the Blazers, with 10
points in the first six minutes, capped by a jumper that pulled
Portland to a 15-all tie.
It was Rudy Fernandez who helped swing the game in Portland’s
favor in the second quarter. Fernandez had 10 points in 12 minutes,
including three 3-pointers that put the Blazers up 45-35 midway
through the second quarter.
He also had three assists, including a no-look, behind-the-back
pass to Martell Webster, and an alley-oop to Aldridge that drew
cheers from the Rose Garden crowd.
The Blazers led by as many as 14 points en route to a 60-49 lead
at the break.
Turkoglu’s 3-pointer with 1:16 left in the third quarter
narrowed it to 83-76. But on the other end he fouled Fernandez, who
made both shots.
Bargnani closed the Raptors to 85-80 early in the fourth
quarter, but the Blazers responded and went up 91-80 after Batum’s
Bosh was playing in his fifth game after missing seven games
with a sprained ankle and a stomach virus.
“I’ve had to have a few games to get back to my normal self,”
Bosh said. “It took a toll on us but that’s the reality. We’re
just going to have to dig ourselves out of this hole and nobody can
do it for us but ourselves.”
The Blazers were coming off a 110-94 victory over the Sacramento
Kings. Portland hosts the Wizards on Friday.
NOTES: The Blazers have won four straight against the Raptors.
Neither team had won more than three straight in series history.
… The Raptors return home from their 0-4 road trip to host
Atlanta on Wednesday. … All five of the Blazers’ starters scored
in double figures. … Roy wore his No. 3 Washington jersey after
the game. The current Pac-10 tournament champion Huskies are an
11th seed in the East region for the NCAA tournament and will meet
sixth-seeded Marquette in San Jose, Calif., on Thursday.