No Garden party for Raps

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:12 AM ET

PORTLAND ó For the Raptors, it was no bed of roses here at the Rose Garden.

It was more a case of agony being piled up, misery mounting with each quarter and futility prevailing.

And now the Raptors come home from an 0-for-4 road trip in desperate need of a win to at least maintain any semblance of sanity.

Itís way too early in the process, but this work in progress will certainly be tested with visits by Golden State and Charlotte before another four-game trip looms.

In other words, this four-game slide could easily swell as quickly as Saturday nightís game began to turn in favour of the home-town Trail Blazers.

What amounted to a pedestrian first half by both clubs quickly became a walk in the park for Portland, which ran its visitors ragged in the third quarter, taking a lead that grew to as much as 23 points en route to a 97-84 win.

At no point did the Raptors play any sustained stretch at a high level, and at no time did it seem capable the Raptors could take over the gameís momentum, even though Portland did its best to be hospitable.

Missed shots after missed shots from the mid-post, perimeter jumpers that wouldnít drop, layups that rimmed out ó name a spot on the floor and chances are pretty good that the Raptors misfired from there.

To say the Raptors couldnít buy a basket is to say the team had a difficult time on the road, where a win was as elusive as a made field goal against Portland.

But those are the vagaries of back to backs, a fact of life in the NBA that is only overcome by being mentally strong, remaining emotionally engaged even though the body is crying for rest.

For Portland, there was no built-in excuse, but as the game wore on and as the Raptors began to wear out, the Blazersí skill level simply took over.

Unlike fans in Toronto who need to be prodded to make noise and unlike the officials at the ACC who have to peddle some shameless corporate promotion, which interrupts all flow, the denizens here in Portland know their hoops, know when to cheer and they became the ultimate sixth man.

Simply put, the Raptors had no legs and barely stayed competitive in the opening half only because the Blazers couldnít make any shots.

Had the Raptors played with the same energy they showed in L.A. against the Lakers on Friday, they could have ended their swing on a better note.

One must also remember that the Raptors donít have much of a post game, which puts a lot of pressure on shooters to make shots.

What the Raptors did do well in the opening half was get to the line, but once they got there they failed to shoot a high percentage.

Take away Andrea Bargnaniís 5-of-10 shooting and the rest of the team went a combined 5-of-26 from the field in the opening half, the epitome of brick city in a region known as RIP City.

Toronto played minus Sonny Weems (knee tendinitis), but it was of little consequence.

Toronto did summon sufficient energy to begin the final period by going with a lineup that featured Bargnani, Amir Johnson, Julian Wright, who played well in L.A., Leandro Barbosa and Jose Calderon.

Now is not the time to panic six games into the season, but a win would be welcome.

And the Raptorsí NBA record streak of draining a three-pointer was finally extended to 947 games when Jarrett Jack finally sunk a tre late in the fourth quarter.

frank.zicarelli@sunmedia.ca


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