After dropping a game at Sacramento on Tuesday night, the Portland Trail Blazers enter their matchup with Toronto on Wednesday night losers of five of their last six games.
The defending champion Raptors, coming off a 10-point loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday, will enter Portland looking to improve to 3-1 on their current five-game road trip.
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Toronto is dealing with a rash of injuries on this road jaunt, the most recent a right eye contusion for OG Anunoby. Former Raptors star Kawhi Leonard poked Anunoby in the eye in the first quarter Monday, and the young swingman didn’t return to the game. Anunoby has been ruled out for Wednesday.
Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (thumb) is out for at least two weeks, and forward Serge Ibaka (ankle) is out indefinitely.
“I think we are showing those guys who weren’t playing can help us,” Toronto guard Fred VanVleet told reporters after the Clippers game. “Now it’s harder when your role is diminished and it’s eight minutes instead of 25 or 18, instead of 25 and you are playing in crunch time.
“It’s easier with more minutes and more opportunity and knowing that you are not coming out because we only got so many guys. But we knew we were a tough bunch and we were going to fight hard and our defense is really good. We know we got to fix some things on offense, but it’s a long year, so it was a good back-to-back (with a split against the L.A. teams). We move on and try and get one in Portland.”
The Blazers are no stranger to the injury bug, with Jusuf Nurkic (leg), Pau Gasol (foot) and Zach Collins (shoulder) expected to be out on Wednesday. The status of Rodney Hood was uncertain after he sat out a second straight game Tuesday due to back spasms.
It’s been a strong season for Damian Lillard, who scored a team-high 27 in the 107-99 loss to the Kings, two games after posting a career-high 60 on Friday against the Brooklyn Nets. Other than Lillard, however, the Blazers have been hard-pressed to find a consistent scoring punch. CJ McCollum’s shooting percentage has dipped significantly from last season, and Hassan Whiteside has been up and down in the box score.
In Lowry’s absence, the Raptors will rely heavily on Pascal Siakam going forward. The young big man from Cameroon is having a breakout season for Toronto, averaging 26.3 points and 9.5 rebounds per game to go along with 3.9 assists. He put up 44 points against the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday.
VanVleet and Norman Powell, along with Marc Gasol, will be relied upon at a greater rate, as well, as the Raptors nurse myriad injuries. In the aftermath of the loss to the Clippers, coach Nick Nurse was clearly frustrated with the no-call on the play that injured Anunoby’s eye.
“He lost both his contacts and got his eye cut open with blood,” Nurse told reporters. “Are you kidding me?”