Trail Blazers-Raptors Preview

The Associated Press

After plenty of early success, the Portland Trail Blazers find themselves in a bit of a funk.

A matchup with the reeling Toronto Raptors could help them get back on track.

Hoping to avoid a fifth loss in six games, the visiting Blazers look to extend their winning streak over the Raptors to seven Friday night.

Since winning seven of nine contests to post its best start since opening 10-1 in 1999-2000, Portland (8-6) has lost four of five - with three of those defeats coming by three points or fewer.

Two nights after snapping a three-game skid with an 84-77 win at New Orleans, the Blazers dropped to 2-5 on the road with Wednesday's 92-89 loss at Atlanta. They fell behind early, and ultimately came up short again even though they tied the game with a 13-0 run to start the fourth quarter.

"Right now it seems like we're playing harder when we get down instead of playing that way from the beginning of the game. That makes it tougher on us to come back and pull out games," Jamal Crawford, who scored 22 points in his return to Atlanta, told the Blazers' official website. "We just need to have a good practice (Thursday) and play harder next time out."

Big man LaMarcus Aldridge, who leads Portland with 22.5 points per game, finished with 20 and a season-best 11 boards but scored just four points over the final 12 minutes.

"We have to figure out where our problems are and correct them," he said. "One day it's one thing and then it's another. We'll get things figured out, but we just have to hurry up and get it done."

The Blazers, who have won six straight in this series by an average of 9.7 points, have to like their chances of regrouping against Toronto (4-11).

Playing without leading scorer Andrea Bargnani (strained left calf) for the fourth straight contest, the Raptors saw their losing streak reach six with Wednesday's 96-73 loss at Boston.

"Right now we're in a little bit of a slump the last six games," said reserve swingman Gary Forbes, who scored a season-best 18 points. "It's something that's correctable. We're in every game pretty much in the third quarter. We've just got to get better."

Bargnani, averaging 22.3 points, is unlikely to face the Blazers. While the Raptors would undoubtedly love to get their big man back, they'd also like to see DeMar DeRozan pick up the pace.

DeRozan matched a career worst with five turnovers versus the Celtics and has been limited to a combined 21 points on 9-of-33 shooting (27.3 percent) over his last two games.

Portland's Nicolas Batum was taken to the hospital at halftime Wednesday after he was accidentally poked in his left eye. His availability remains unknown.

Blazers center Marcus Camby, drafted second overall by Toronto in 1996, could return following a three-game absence due to a sprained left ankle.

Aldridge is averaging 27.0 points and 10.6 rebounds over his last three meetings with the Raptors. He scored 37 points on 14-of-25 shooting in a 102-96 win at the Air Canada Centre on Feb. 11 - his highest career point total in an opposing arena.

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