After back-to-back losing seasons, the surging Portland Trail Blazers are making plenty of noise in 2013-14.
The Trail Blazers try to extend their winning streak to six for the first time in almost three years when they visit the Toronto Raptors on Sunday.
While Portland went a combined 61-87 over the previous two seasons, coach Terry Stotts' team is looking like a contender in the early going. The Blazers (7-2), who rank near the top of the NBA with a rebounding differential of 4.3, have outrebounded opponents by an average of 12.0 boards during their run.
Portland is also averaging 103.1 points, significantly higher than last season's mark of 97.5. The Blazers haven't won six in a row since Feb. 5-16, 2011.
"From an offensive stand point we are moving the ball well," Stotts said. "I like the way we are coming together as a team."
The Blazers continued their dominance on the glass in Friday's 109-96 win at Boston, pulling down 47 boards to the Celtics' 34. LaMarcus Aldridge recorded his fourth consecutive double-double with 27 points and 12 rebounds while Nicolas Batum and Mo Williams scored 18 apiece.
"We have been great all year about playing inside-outside," said Aldridge, whose team is shooting an impressive 41.3 percent from 3-point range.
"It's just a matter of trying to get wins. It's just one of those years where you know our team is good and you know I've worked hard this year. We are just trying to get better every game."
Friday marked Portland's first win in Boston since March 31, 2004. The Blazers have won three straight away from home by an average of 13.0 points.
"It's been a long time," Batum said. "It's good for our confidence. It's good to keep winning on the road."
Portland had taken eight straight from the Raptors (4-6), including four in a row at Toronto, before getting blown out 102-79 during its last visit Jan. 2. Aldridge, averaging 26.3 points and 12.8 boards over a six-game stretch in the series, had 14 and 10 that night. Raptors guard Terrence Ross, meanwhile, scored a career-high 26 off the bench and DeMar DeRozan added 24.
DeRozan matched a career best with 37 points Friday, but the Raptors were otherwise held in check during a 96-80 loss to Chicago. Rudy Gay, averaging 24.0 points over the last three games, had 20 but was the only other player to score in double figures.
Kyle Lowry had an especially bad night, finishing with six points on 3 of 15 from the field. The Raptors, who put up their fewest points this season, dropped to 1-5 when scoring 95 or fewer.
"There's nothing redeeming about tonight," coach Dwane Casey said. "That wasn't us. We've had stretches like that but not an entire game.
"That's one of the things about the NBA. It's a long season, it's a marathon. And it's how you bounce back from these type of games that identify you."
The Raptors may want to think about getting Amir Johnson and fellow big man Jonas Valanciunas more involved against a Blazers team giving up a whopping 48.2 points per game in the paint - one of the league's worst marks. The duo managed just seven points on a combined 3-for-8 shooting against the Bulls.
Toronto has taken nine of its last 13 home games against Western Conference foes dating to last season.
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