The Portland Trail Blazers have coped so far without Wesley Matthews, but they start a tough five-game road trip in Toronto and there’s still plenty to worry about when it comes to seeding competition in the West. Meanwhile, the Toronto Raptors got a much needed win, but have their own work to do to retain their current position.
Few teams have been playing better basketball than Portland of late. They’ve won seven of their last eight games and have gained on Memphis in the race for the second seed, while solidifying their hold on third place. The Trail Blazers still have a lot of work to do though, and things have been made more difficult by the loss of shooting guard Matthews. He was the team’s third leading scorer averaging 15.9 points per game and played a critical role as a deep threat. His impact on this team’s potential postseason success is difficult to estimate. Terry Stotts doesn’t have that many games to work it out.
Arron Afflalo is a talented player and he has got the starts in Matthews’ place. He’s averaging 12.7 points in his last three games and has gone 6 for 16 from three-point range. Damian Lillard takes on even more responsibility in the absence of Matthews. He’s averaging 24.7 points per game and has shot 10-20 from beyond the arc in his last three. The third year point guard has looked refreshed after a poor run of shooting form during much of February.
The Raptors have lost nine of their past 11 games, but they got a much-needed 102-92 win over the Miami Heat and they looked far more comfortable playing at the Air Canada Centre after a stretch playing most of their games on the road.
It was also the first game where guard tandem DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry played well together. Lowry had 19 points, eight assists and picked up seven steals. DeRozan had 18 points and six assists. Lou Williams also chipped in scoring 14 points and Toronto generally looked like a more co-ordinated team.
Toronto will need to start winning now. Besides falling two games behind Cleveland for the second seed in the East, the Raptors are not safe from Chicago or Washington for home court advantage in the playoffs.
Betting Preview: Portland (+2) v Toronto
The Raptors did play better against Miami, but the Heat are in disarray themselves. The Trail Blazers are playing good basketball and should be able to cope without Matthews in a game like this. The best bet is to expect Portland to cover the spread in this one.
The Pick: Portland (+2) (www.betonline.ag)
Writer’s Record Against The Spread: 33-26