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Portland Trail Blazers jump out early, hold on late, win 114-105 at Toronto to end trip 4-2

OregonLive.com logo OregonLive.com 1/24/2022 Aaron Fentress, oregonlive.com

The suddenly formidable Portland Trail Blazers completed their six-game trip Sunday with a 114-105 win at the Toronto Raptors in a game that saw them zoom out to a huge lead, then have to hold on to secure the victory.

The Blazers led 64-34 at the half, their largest halftime lead of the season, but the Raptors made a run in the third quarter to narrow the deficit to 86-67 and then flurried late to get to within 105-101 with 1:24 to go at Scotiabank Arena.

But two late threes from Anfernee Simons helped secure the victory and the Blazers ended their trip 4-2.

“It was an incredible trip for us,” Blazers coach Chauncey Billups said. “I’m so proud of our guys. We’re just becoming a real unit. I’m really happy about that.”

Portland shot 52.9% from the field and hit on 18 of 32 threes (56.3%). Leading the way were Simons, CJ McCollum and Nassir Little. Each finished with 19 points. McCollum added 10 rebounds and six assists. Simons contributed five assists.

However, both Simons and McCollum struggled to secure the ball when Toronto cranked up the heat on defense. Simons finished with six turnovers and McCollum committed five. The Blazers as a team had 22 turnovers.

WHAT IT MEANS (Box score)

The Blazers (20-26) departed on this trip without Damian Lillard or McCollum and appeared to be a team set to fall further in the standings, given that they were 2-13 on the road. Nearly two weeks later, they will return to Portland with McCollum and looking like a team that could actually make a run up the standings.

Portland is currently in 10th place.

“I’d say it was a pretty good trip,” McCollum said. “The goal is to win games. Compete. Continue to build winning habits. To go out there and play hard. I think we’re doing that.”

GAME RECAP

The Blazers jumped out to a 16-4 lead, powered by a dunk and two threes from Little to go along with threes from McCollum and Simons. Portland didn’t stop pouring it on there and led 33-15 at the end of the quarter while holding Toronto (22-22) to 19.2% shooting from the field.

“We came out knowing that we had to be the aggressor because this team is really aggressive and they fight hard,” Billups said. “And we did that. We got some shots to fall; really had it going.”

The second quarter went just as poorly for the Raptors. The Blazers shot 61.9% while getting eight points from Ben McLemore and seven from CJ Elleby.

By halftime, Portland led 64-34. McCollum had 12 points and Simons had 11 with four assists. The Blazers shot 56.8% from the field and 57.9% on threes. The Raptors shot 22.9% from the field and 21.4% on threes.

Billups said he figured the Raptors would right the ship and make a move in the second half. And they did, starting in the third quarter. They got their deficit down to 75-55 with 4:32 remaining while getting 11 points in the quarter from Pascal Siakam.

The Raptors pressed and trapped their way to forcing seven Blazers’ turnovers in the quarter.

“They started getting really physical and started pressing us,” Little said. “Mentally we were just trying to make the right decisions and close out the game.”

Toronto also began shooting better, making 54.2% of their shots including 6 of 14 threes. The Raptors won the quarter, 33-22 but still trailed 86-67 going into the fourth.

Billups, who played 18 years in the NBA, said his team simply didn’t have the same edge with such a big lead.

“It’s really hard to play the right way when you’re up 30,” Billups said. “You can relax. And I thought we did that. But not only that, they came out really, really with a sense of urgency and with some real aggressiveness. And it stunned us, I thought, a little bit.”

The Raptors continued to use pressure to force turnovers and create transition baskets.

Simons said Toronto’s aggressiveness caused Portland to fall back a little bit and that allowed the Raptors to attack them rather than the other way around.

When Siakam dunked during a fast break and then followed with a layup, the Raptors trailed just 100-90 with 3:42 on the clock.

“I just knew that they were going to find a way to make it a game,” Billups said. “That’s just kind of how they play. I felt like they were just running around, being aggressive, trying to just jump the game up and speed us up and they did that.”

After struggling to get the ball up the court on several possessions, Billups got veteran point guard Dennis Smith Jr. back into the game with 2:51 remaining.

“He calmed us down a little bit,” Billups said. “But once we got the ball past halfcourt we could get any shot that we wanted.”

Toronto guard Gary Trent Jr.’s three made it 101-93 and he hit another at the 1:24 mark to make the score 105-101.

Clearly, the Blazers were in danger of blowing the game.

“I can’t say what was on my mind at that point,” Little said.

Things were clearly unnerving but Simons, who had been quiet for some time, came back with a three of his own to push the Blazers’ lead to 108-101 with 1:13 remaining.

The Blazers got a stop when Fred VanVleet’s midrange jumper missed, then they looked to eat some clock. That endeavor resulted in Simons making a deep three just before the shot clock expired.

“Ant hit a couple of daggers,” Billups said.

Simons’ second three in that sequence gave the Blazers a 111-101 with 40.5 seconds remaining.

“You have to give them credit,” Billups said. “They fought like crazy to give themselves a chance to win this game.”

Siakam led Toronto with 28 points and eight rebounds.

NEXT UP

The Blazers return home to play Tuesday against Minnesota (23-23) and then Wednesday against Dallas (27-20) before starting a four-game trip Friday at Houston.

— Aaron Fentress | afentress@Oregonian.com | @AaronJFentress (Twitter), @AaronJFentress (Instagram), @AaronFentress (Facebook).

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