Portland at Toronto
Time: 6 PM CST (NBA LP)
Spread: TOR -2.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Toronto Raptors are 24-12 and 14-5 at home where it hosts the 15-22 Portland Trail Blazers. The Blazers are just 7-13 on the road this season and it is trailing the San Antonio Spurs by one game for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. The Raptors are 2.5-point favorites in NBA action Tuesday night, with the over/under set at 219.5 points according to NBA oddsmakers at 5dimes.
The Raptors were expected to regress following the loss of Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, and the team has started to show more signs of it in recent weeks, as winners of six of its last 10 games. The Raptors are still likely a top-4 team in the Eastern Conference, but the absence of Pascal Siakam has proved to be a lot to make up for. Serge Ibaka is up for the task as one of the best reserves forwards in the league, but Siakam’s production is simply too much to make up for. Ibaka had 21 points and 12 rebounds in the Raptors’ 121-102 victory over Brooklyn, but the absence of a true No. 1 option has made things stickier for the Raptors.
Pascal Siakam was averaging 25.1 points, eight rebounds, and 3.6 assists prior to suffering an injury to his groin. He practiced in a light on-court workout on Monday, but he is still not ready for gameplay quite yet. In his absence, Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet have picked up a lot of that slack on the scoring. VanVleet is averaging 18 points and seven assists, having his finest NBA season to date. Lowry is still rock solid and consistent, with averages of 20.9 points and 7.4 assists per game. Together, the pair is a tough backcourt that has helped make up for the absence of Pascal.
OG Anunoby is rebounding after a tough year a season ago and he has averaged 11 points and six boards per game in just under 30 minutes a night. What made Toronto a great team was not Leonard, but it was Toronto’s depth, the same depth that has thus far managed a loss to its de facto leader in Siakam.
The Portland Trail Blazers have had a tough first-haft to its schedule, having gone 7-13 on the road and also having played just 17 home games to the 20 on the road, tonight’s being the twenty-first.
Portland enters having lost six of its last seven games, with the lone win having come over a depleted and weak Washington Wizards team. The Blazers clearly did not improve with the addition of Hassan Whiteside, and Carmelo Anthony has been fairly good but is far from a franchise savior at this point in his career. That basically leaves Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum responsible for far too much of the offense, and depth is an issue as well. Outside of Melo, Lillard, and CJ, the Blazers have only Whiteside and Rodney Hood as viable offensive weapons.
Anfernee Simons is certainly promising, but he comes with a lot of inconsistencies as an inexperienced and very young guard. Mario Hezonja had some strong games earlier in the season, but the fact he was starting was what prompted the Blazers to sign Anthony, to begin with. Since that time, Hezonja has done a disappearing act as his minutes have been slashed.
Former Sacramento King Skal Labissiere is doing fairly well as a reclamation project, but at this point, it seems unlikely he ever lives up to his high billing, particularly with how high it was before he entered the NCAA (Where he flopped at Kentucky). The Blazers need Jusuf Nurkic back to add the toughness and defenses that Whiteside lacks.
Sure, there is the fact that Whiteside blocks 2.8 shots per game, but he often does it at the peril of foul trouble, and Nurkic is a much better direct post defender. Perhaps in a time-share, both could amp up the energy level on both ends of the court and provide the Blazers an effective two-headed monster at the 5-spot. As of right now, this is all fantasy and vision, because Portland is struggling badly without any real answers on its roster besides Nurkic’s return.