TORONTO – The Toronto Raptors needed the greatest comeback in franchise history. They fell just short.
Pascal Siakam scored 28 points as the Raptors nearly overcame a 34-point deficit with an excellent second half in a 114-105 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday.
Fred VanVleet added 19 points, while Gary Trent Jr. had 13 points and OG Anunoby and Chris Boucher chipped in with 11 points apiece for Toronto (22-22).
Anfernee Simons had 19 points, including two big three-pointers down the stretch for Portland (20-26). CJ McCollum and Nassir Little also had 19 apiece for the visitors, who were missing both Damian Lillard (abdominal surgery) and former Raptor Norm Powell.
The Raptors were coming off a five-game road trip that saw them win two, including a 109-105 win on Friday in Washington against a Wizards team that was playing at full strength.
Portland put a quick end to any momentum the Raptors might have had, opening the game with a 25-4 run. That 21-point deficit had grown to a gaping 34 points by late in the second quarter.
The Raptors buckled down on the defensive in the third quarter — while the piped-in fake crowd chanted “De-fence!” — and Boucher’s three-pointer with 2:15 left in the quarter capped a 30-16 Toronto run that sliced the difference to 14 points. The Blazers led 86-67 with one quarter to play.
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The Raptors pressed again and when rookie Dalano Banton drove to the hoop with six minutes left, it capped a 12-0 run to slice the difference to 12 points. Toronto kept chipping away at the difference, and back-to-back three-pointers by Trent Jr. and VanVleet made it a four-point game with 1:24 to play.
Simons replied with consecutive three-pointers to put Portland back up by 10 with 41.2 seconds left, and then Little’s dunk with 12.8 on the clock sealed the victory.
The Raptors’ biggest comeback ever was 30 points in a 110-107 win over Dallas on Dec. 22, 2019.
Powell didn’t make the trip to Toronto. He’s missed eight in a row, first for COVID-19 protocol and then what the team listed as personal reasons.
Both VanVleet and Raptors coach Nick Nurse recently said that it doesn’t seem right for former Raptors to play in front of no fans at Scotiabank Arena.
The Ontario government reduced crowd capacity to 1,000 fans in late December due to the crush of COVID-19 cases in the province, and Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd., decided instead to go one step further and not host any fans starting Dec. 31. The fanless period was initially supposed to last three weeks.
The Ontario government announced last week it’s relaxing restrictions to permit 50 per cent capacity on Feb. 21, and full capacity on March 14.
The Raptors could have used a crowd behind them on Sunday, although for much of the night there was little to cheer about.
VanVleet and Trent Jr., combined for 1-for-14 shooting in a first quarter that saw Toronto shoot a horrible 19.2 per cent from the field. The Trail Blazers seemingly couldn’t miss, shooting 54.5 per cent from three-point range. The Blazers led 33-15 to start the second.
The second quarter was no better. The Blazers got 11 three-pointers from five different players in the first half, and McCollum’s fadeaway jumper a minute before halftime had Portland up by 34. The Blazers took a 64-34 lead into the break.
The Raptors host the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday then head on the road for three in a row, at Chicago, Miami and Atlanta.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 23, 2022.
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