Trail Blazers will use a three-guard starting lineup vs. Toronto Raptors, but will it be here to stay?

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Just three days after the Trail Blazers and Raptors trade was finalized with Portland sending Gary Trent Jr. and Rodney Hood to Toronto for Norman Powell, the three will face their former teammates Sunday in Tampa, Florida.

And in just his second game with the Blazers, Powell will slide into the starting lineup for Derrick Jones Jr. as Portland will get Damian Lillard back from a left knee contusion.

Ahead of Sunday’s contest, Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts discussed his new starting lineup.

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Coach Stotts said “a couple things” went into that decision.  

The obvious thing is that he’s playing against his former team, especially this close, that seemed like a natural thing. And the other thing is they play a three-guard lineup as well, so it was a good match up decision.

Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts

Coach Stotts says he hasn’t decided yet if the starting lineup moving forward will be based on matchups like it was Sunday night.

But he did mention that he determines the lineup based on both ends of the floor.

 

“Both, and going forward I will look at it as well. If defensively it causes a problem for us or our opponent, I think I’ll take that into account,” Stotts added. “Like I said, tonight was a relatively easy decision. I don’t think it will necessarily be an easy decision going forward.”

As for who will guard who, Stotts says he will let his players decide.

And against the Raptors, he believes that his three guards matchup well with Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, and Gary Trent Jr.

But now, the Blazers won’t have to worry about slowing down Lowry Sunday. The Raptors announced less than an hour before tip-off that he will not play due to right foot soreness. 

In six seasons with the Raptors, Powell averaged 9.9 points, 2.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 0.80 steals.

But as a starter this season, he has averaged 23.5 points per game. 

Powell will also bring a defensive intensity at the guard spot and put his 6’8″ wingspan to work.

Yet, it’s his scoring punch that most people notice, especially with his three-point shooting.

And Coach Stotts, of course, recognizes that.

The way the game is in the NBA, the three-point shot is invaluable and so you add another shooter, but on top of that, he can handle, he can bring the ball, he can initiate the offense, once he’s more comfortable with the offense… I think the quality of three-point shots will improve.

Terry Stotts on Normal Powell

As the Trail Blazers prepared for the Raptors, Coach Stotts also added that Jusuf Nurkic, who will be playing in his second game since fracturing his right wrist on Jan. 14, will still be on a minutes restriction. Nurkic will play in five-minute stretches like he did Friday night in Orlando.

Portland and Toronto tip-off at 4:00 p.m. PST on NBCSNW, the official network of the Portland Trail Blazers.