Damian Lillard drops 50 in Portland’s 117-115 loss to Raptors (video)

(Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)

(Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)

The Portland Trail Blazers have earned all the attention they’ve gotten as of late. For Damian Lillard, that goes double. Friday night in Toronto he doubled his number of career 50-point outings, with his second 50-point game in the past two weeks. However, thanks to DeMar DeRozan’s 38 points and 35 fouls as a team by the Blazers, Lillard and co. lost, 117-115.

While his second 50-point outing in the last two weeks deserves all the attention it will get, the Blazers have slipped a little bit defensively after righting the ship. Lillard’s explosion would have provided for another great story had the Blazers gotten a stop down the stretch.

It isn’t an alarming trend and it’s too early to even call it a trend. Their defense was a major reason for they’ve made a leap in the standings. However, it has slipped a little bit after being at a top-five level in the 15 games before the All-Star break.┬áIn the nine games since the All-Star break, the Blazers are ranked 19th

After handling the struggling Chicago Bulls, the Blazers have posted a defensive rating of 108.2 in the following four games.

Their last two games skew that number quite a bit having played two Top-10 offenses and they’ve played better teams since the break. Still, if the Blazers want to be a top-15 defensive team by season’s end, which is their stated goal, they have to start bothering teams who are expected to perform well.

Lillard wouldn’t let the Blazers fade even though the Raptors led for most of the game.He scored 22 points in the final seven-plus minutes to bring the Blazers to within two points but the Blazers never got the stops they needed to make it happen.

The Blazers were incensed with the officiating all night. Their reactions and interactions with the refs said as much. Their 35 fouls on Friday were the second most they’ve committed in a game this season, trailing only the hack-a obscenity of Nov. 30 when DeAndre Jordan shot 34 free-throws. It was called tighter than most games, but the Blazers are also a pretty foul-happy bunch.

It started early. Mason Plumlee picked up two fouls in the first four minutes. Meyers Leonard was called earlier than normal and was paired with Noah Vonleh, a pair that rarely has seen the floor.

Lillard, too, got going early.

https://vine.co/v/iXbE2wPKQH5/embed

Stotts would end up switching the starting line-up due to Plumlee’s continued foul trouble. Leonard got the start alongside Vonleh. Plumlee picked up his fourth foul before halftime yet somehow managed to play 26 minutes and close the game for the Blazers. If Leonard had any shots go down, perhaps this changes things, but the Raptors also didn’t let him have a ton of open looks.

Again, they allowed the Raptors to start the game with a 30-point quarter. The Raptors scored 27 points or more in every quarter.

Lillard helped bring the Blazers back and CJ McCollum was good for the entire game, but it they needed better defense to get the win.

 

Patrick Patterson hit a huge 3-pointer down the stretch and Jonas Valanciunas had two big offensive rebounds that led to Raptors buckets in the final two minutes.

Notes

  • Maurice Harkless got significant crunch time burn in the 4th quarter. He played all but 27 seconds of the final period and drew the assignment of guarding DeMar DeRozan most frequently. DeRozan only took four free-throws in the 4th quarter and scored seven points.
  • CJ McCollum was really good tonight. Just thought it needed to be said with Lillard scoring 50. He was fantastic throughout the game and was an efficient 8-for-17 from the field. He had the full bag of tricks and really delivered.
  • What’s going on with The Third Bucketteer? Yes, Lillard and McCollum were the stars, but Allen Crabbe as the team’s Sixth Man has been an important piece for the Blazers all season. He had been that third guy all season. Since the All-Star break his effective field goal percentage has dipped a whopping 10 points from 55 to 45.1. But what’s more interesting about Crabbe as of late is that his usage rate has cratered. Since the break he’s using just 12.5 percent of his team’s possessions while on the court despite playing almost the same amount of minutes. Before the break he was using a healthy 17.6 percent of his team’s possessions. I’ll have to look a little bit closer to see what other teams are doing to game plan against him now that it’s known how good he is. But a little bit more aggressiveness from Crabbe would help. The Blazers would be nowhere without Gerald Henderson, but if he and Crabbe are on the floor together, Crabbe needs to be taking more of the shots.
  • The Blazers take on the Pistons in Detroit Sunday for the final game of their 6-game trip. It’s already been a success after winning the first three games of the trip. The Pistons are pretty solid, but ultimately beatable. A win there would be a nice boost before they come home to face the Wizards. The first home game after a long road trip is often tough.
  • Jason Quick profiled the relationship between Damian Lillard and DeMar DeRozan for CSNNW.com.
  • All 50 of Lillard’s points via FreeDawkins on YouTube [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=waD-uUnolMg]

 

Erik Gundersen

Erik Gundersen

Erik Gundersen is the Trail Blazers beat reporter for The Columbian. He's a graduate of the Allen School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon in addition earning a degree in Spanish. He's covered the NBA for four seasons. You can also occasionally find his work on ESPN.com's NBA section for their TrueCities series. He also fist-bumped with Kanye West once. Follow @BlazerBanter on twitter for more Blazers and NBA news.

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