|Toronto Raptors guard Jarrett Jack, right, drives to the basket against Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge during the first half of their NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Sunday, March 14.(AP Photo/Don Ryan)
PORTLAND — Well, the passion appears to be back. But that small matter of winning still seems to be giving the Raptors trouble.
A four-game road swing through the West started and ended on a better note than the games in between, but it was still a four-loss trip.
A night after Chris Bosh basically asked his teammates to start competing, his message appeared to get through but it wasn’t enough to knock off a pretty good Portland Trail Blazers team.
The Blazers hung on for a 109-98 win Sunday night at the Rose Garden despite the best effort by the Raptors since the trip began with a buzzer-beater loss to Kobe Bryant and the Lakers.
With the loss, the Raptors fell a game below .500 for the first time since Jan. 20. The Raptors continue to defend like their allergic to the activity, but it had to feel nice for a change to at least be in a game. The Raps remain a game up on Chicago for eighth place in the East but wins by both Charlotte and Miami on Sunday night mean they are now two full games out of sixth and seventh spots.
Bosh, after he aired his teammates out for a lack of passion following the Golden State game, wisely stepped up his own game hitting for 27 points and seven rounds to lad the charge.
The Raptors downfall, though, was in two of the same three areas that they were so woefully exposed the night before in Oakland.
They showed a distinct inability to close out on the Trail Blazers perimeter shooters, allowing them to knock down 12-of-20 from distance, eight of those 12 coming from Nicolas Batum and Rudy Fernandez.
The other glarding deficiency in the Raptors game was their ability to protect against second-chance points. More precisely, it was the inability to keep LaMarcus Aldridge off the offensive glass.
Aldridge wound up pulling down 11 rebounds, eight of them offensive, accounting for the vast majority of the 22-12 edge the Blazers enjoyed in second-chance points.
Andrea Bargnani spent the first half seemingly losing track of Aldridge with regularity. If he wasn’t pulling down extra chances for his teammates he was being left wide open for easy tap-ins and layups.
Aldridge wound up with 20 points equalling Brandon Roy but two shy of Batum who was a one-man wrecking crew. He made five of six three-point attempts and was 7-for-9 from the floor.
The Raptors lost the services of Antoine Wright for the second half when a sore right ankle prevented him from coming out for the final two periods.
Gone, at least for a night, was the Raptors inability to keep a team within range in the third quarter.
For the first time since the all-star break, a span of 13 games, the Raps actually won a third quarter, outscoring the Blazers by four.
The problem was they had already dug themselves an 11-point hole in the first half.
Hedo Turkoglu, who changed his mind about signing with Portland in the off-season and picked Toronto instead could not touch the ball all night without hearing it from the Rose Garden faithful.
From the opening tip to his final walk off the court, Turkoglu was booed every chance they got. The attention actually seemed to motivate Turkoglu who had 14 points, the most since Feb. 28 when he had 18.