OG Anunoby and the Toronto Raptors looked to bounce back after a loss against the lowry Pistons by kicking off their West Coast swing in promising fashion against the Portland Trail Blazers. Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, and old friend Norman Powell could provide a very daunting task for the likes of Pascal Siakam and Khem Birch.
The Raptors had lost three of their last four games following a five-game winning streak, and with many of the Western Conference’s elite on the schedule, Toronto needed a win in the worst way.
That victory didn’t come, as Portland managed to hold on to a 118-113 win despite a furious late charge from Nick Nurse’s team. Scottie Barnes put in a nice night of work tonight, but a couple of ill-timed turnovers in the closing minutes of the game ultimately did them in.
The Toronto Raptors may have lost thanks to some suspect performances from key role players, but some star players on this roster played well.
OG Anunoby was the best player for the Toronto Raptors.
While the Raptors’ defense has completely capitulated over the last few games, the offense has taken some steps in the right direction. Anunoby had one of the best halves of basketball in his career last night, as he helped keep the Raptors alive and withstand some major Portland broadsides.
Anunoby scored 29 points on 9-19 shooting and 6-10 from 3-point range. The only reason the wheels didn’t completely come off in the second quarter was Anunoby’s white-hot shooting. After some iffy shooting nights, No. 3 found his groove.
Anunoby was merely OK on defense tonight, but the Blazers were hitting pretty much everything irrespective of how well Toronto defended. This was Anunoby’s best offensive game since Siakam returned, which is a good sign for this lineup.
Anunoby’s growth as a scorer was obvious when Siakam was on the mend, and it looks like he’s still going to be just as lethal with No. 43 back into the lineup. Toronto didn’t get a win, but this is not on Anunoby’s shoulders.
Khem Birch had a tough game for the Toronto Raptors.
With the already thin frontcourt depleted, Birch needed to play one of his best games of the season to make sure that the Raptors pulled out the victory. Not only did he fail to accomplish that task, but he put together one of the worst showings he’s had since he came to Toronto.
Birch’s six points and four rebounds are right around what his season averages are, but that doesn’t show how he was hunted on both ends by Jusuf Nurkic and Cody Zeller. Nurkic only played 18 minutes, and he still tallied 14 rebounds. Zeller had no issue making a few baskets tonight.
Birch is not a bad player, nor is he at risk of losing minutes, but Nurkic and Zeller both had minimal issues getting rebounds and interior looks against him. Birch has been occupying a more traditional center role for this team, and when he struggles against players like Nurkic, Toronto lacks players with similar skill sets that can slow their opponents down.
The Raptors will take on one of the best centers in the game in Rudy Gobert on this road trip. A matchup against Steven Adams and Jaren Jackson Jr. in Memphis just days after is also concerning. Birch will have better days, but Portland made it a point to focus on him on Monday night.