It was a step forward and then another step back for the Trail Blazers over the first two games of their current road trip.
They kicked things off with a 105-100 New Year's Day victory over the Knicks at Madison Square Garden, a win that bumped their woeful road record up to 5-10.
A night later, they tumbled back to reality a bit, falling 102-79 to the Raptors in Toronto, a game Portland really should have won, if only because the Blazers had beaten Toronto the previous eight times in a row.
But on this night, Portland ran into a Raptors team that was churning with momentum, winning for the eighth time in a nine-game stretch and getting back at the Blazers for a 92-74 whuppin' they received at the Rose Garden on Dec. 10.
"We had to get our revenge," Terrence Ross told reporters, after scoring a career-high 26 points against Portland on Wednesday.
They got it, and Blazers forward Nicolas Batum noted "this is a different team" than the one he'd seen in Portland less than a month prior.
Toronto has certainly turned it around, and the big win over Portland took some of the shine off of a turnaround the Blazers had been working on themselves.
Tuesday's win over the Knicks ended a three-game road skid for Portland, kicking off a stretch of four straight away games with a win that was plenty big, because it was on the road, at MSG, against a Knicks team that got 45 points from Carmelo Anthony and got back the services of Amar'e Stoudemire for the first time all season.
It was, simply, a momentum-starting victory. And the Raptors halted Portland in its tracks up in Canada, sending the Blazers reeling instead of rolling into the last two games of this road trip. The first of those is Friday night against the Grizzlies in Memphis, and the Timberwolves will be waiting in Minnesota a night later.
Portland will be looking for a better start than it got in Toronto, when the Raptors opened up with a 10-0 run that had the Blazers struggling from the start. Damian Lillard led Portland with 18 points and seven assists, but the rookie point guard also had seven turnovers. LaMarcus Aldridge turned in a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds, but J.J. Hickson -- Portland's double-double machine so far this season -- had a measly two points to go with his seven rebounds.
Meanwhile, there was Ross with 26 off the bench for the Raptors (more than the combined 23 points of Portland's seven reserves), and DeMar DeRozan had 24 points.
Now, the Blazers have a couple of tough foes looming before they get back to the friendly confines of the Rose Garden, for a Jan. 7 game against the Orlando Magic. Having lost big to the Raptors, the road to a split on this current trip just got even tougher.
Adam Sparks has followed the Portland Trail Blazers since the early 1980s, and has written about the team as a freelancer since 2009.
- Sports & Recreation
- Portland Trail Blazers