The visiting Portland Trail Blazers have struggled in the fourth quarter, and Sunday afternoon, that could benefit the Toronto Raptors, who have had two consecutive furious finishes fall short.
The Trail Blazers missed their final 13 shots in a 108-99 road loss to the Indiana Pacers on Friday night.
“Not being able to score at the end of the game, that’s going to hurt you every time,” Portland coach Chauncey Billups said.
Toronto also lost on Friday, 112-108 to the New York Knicks, despite rallying from a 16-point deficit with 4:03 to play in the fourth quarter. The Raptors have dropped the first of two games of a six-game homestand on Wednesday after they rallied from a 21-point deficit with 3:50 to play in the game before losing to the Milwaukee Bucks in overtime.
The Trail Blazers have lost seven of their past 10 games and six straight on the road. In their past three defeats, Portland was in a position to win but failed to make key plays late in the game.
“We just haven’t been good enough down the stretch in these types of games,” said Damian Lillard, who had 19 points and eight assists on Friday.
Lillard had four points and was 1-for-5 from the field in the fourth quarter on Friday as Portland was outscored 27-17.
“I think just for a team like us that plays in so many of those games, those are the moments that we have to be our sharpest,” Lillard said. “We’ve got to understand what needs to happen. We have to execute. We just have to tighten up and bite down in those moments to come out on top, especially on the road, and we just haven’t been able to do that.”
Anfernee Simons led Portland with 20 points on Friday but had three points on 1-for-6 shooting from the field in the fourth quarter.
“We got good looks and just couldn’t knock it down,” Billups said. “We couldn’t make a shot to stop the bleeding.”
The Raptors have lost three in a row and 11 of their past 14.
“I just told them I know it’s tough out there,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said after Friday’s loss. “Our rhythm isn’t great and it’s not a lot of fun, but I’m proud of them for continuing to fight and finding a way to battle back and somehow be around at the end. Again, just not quite good enough during the course of the game.”
Fred VanVleet scored 28 points for the Raptors on Friday and Gary Trent Jr. added 27 points.
“I promise I’ll take all the criticism and questions and concerns at the end of the season but we’ve got a long way to go,” VanVleet said.
There is a sense of a need to win now, however.
“I think we’re in a situation where there’s some urgency every night right now,” Nurse said. “The guys are trying really hard, maybe too hard. So (they) just need to go out there and continue to play defense with some urgency and effort and connectivity, and play with a little bit more pace on offense, get the ball up the floor, relax and knock ’em down.”
Toronto signed forward Joe Wieskamp to a 10-day contract. He averaged 17 points and six rebounds in 13 games with the Wisconsin Herd of the NBA G League.
–Field Level Media