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article imageNBA: Aldridge leads Trail Blazers past Raptors Special

By Aman Dhanoa     Jan 21, 2012 in Sports
Toronto - Having a 30-20 night is a special feat and not accomplished every day in the NBA.
On Friday night the Toronto Raptors returned home from a winless three-game road trip and fell victim to the LaMarcus Aldridge show at the Air Canada Centre.
The 6’11 forward powered his Portland Trail Blazers to a 94-84 road win and handed the Raptors its seventh straight loss.
Aldridge was a force all night and finished with a season-high 33 points and a career-high 23 rebounds, both also game-highs. No other player on the court came close to having as much impact as he continued his all-star start to the season.
“He was just a monster out there tonight, both in the paint as well as on the boards for us,” said Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan. “He was aggressive going to get the boards tonight and just had an outstanding game.”
The Raptors simply had no answer for Aldridge and rest of the Trail Blazers. Toronto was unable to overcome another slow start and the loss extended its losing streak to seven games and have now lost nine of its past 10.
“It’s the kind of tale of who we are right now. Either we play three quarters hard and give up the fourth, or like I thought we started off soft,” said Raptors Head Coach Dwane Casey about his team being outscored 27-14 in the first quarter.
“I thought Portland came out the way you should - aggressive into us and we didn’t respond until the second quarter.”
James Johnson finished with a career-high 23 points and DeMar DeRozan snapped out of his scoring funk to finish with 22. Jose Calderon had a game-high 13 assists, Ed Davis led the Raptors with 10 rebounds and Leandro Barbosa added 17 point off the bench.
"They came out more aggressive like they had more to lose than we did," said Johnson.
"They were running up and down, Aldridge is an all-star, he's playing great and we've got to come out tougher than that. We're a better team than that."
Aldridge came into the game averaging 22.5 points per game to lead his team and ranked him seventh in the NBA. He posted career-high numbers last season where he averaged 21.8 points and 8.7 rebounds and is on his way to surpassing those stats this year.
“I think he has the ability to do this, 23 is a big number, but a double-double is certainly a number that he should average,” said McMillan. “I thought tonight he made up his mind that he was going to go to the boards and that we weren’t going to lose this game. You could see it on his face when he was talking to his team.”
Aldridge had the game ball in his stall afterwards and told reporters that it was just the third one he’s kept in his five NBA seasons. He had a terrific first half scoring 23 points and hauling down 11 rebounds. It wasn’t until then when he realized just how well he was playing.
“I think at halftime I realized when they said I was close to having a 20-20,” said Aldridge who also racked up 37 points and 10 rebounds last February in Toronto.
“I was just like it is early, but in the third quarter, when I had 18 and 19 down, I thought this could be a special night.”
The Trail Blazers combined for a total of 55 rebounds compared to just 40 for the Raptors. Gerald Wallace and former-Raptor Marcus Camby each added 10 boards as well. Raymond Felton added 14 points and off-season signing Jamal Crawford came off the bench to score 10.
“Portland is a good team,” said Casey. “They’re going to be in the money at the end of the year. They are going to be one of the top teams that you are going to be talking about.”
On the Mend
If the Raptors are to have any chance of winning many games this season the team needs to be healthy. On Friday morning, just hours before the game, both Andrea Bargnani (strained left calf) and Jerryd Bayless (left ankle sprain) were game-time decisions, but were still unable to play. The injuries have taken its toll on the team and have made the Raptors more predictable on offence.
“There are no easy games in the NBA for us,” said Casey. “We don’t have our number one scorer. We have to find other ways to win and to compete. Somehow, someway we have to get four good quarters together and get healthy.
“Health is huge in this league and it’s not a forgiving league when you are not healthy. You take 20 plus points, and the way Jerryd (Bayless) was playing at that time, out of anybody’s lineup and it’s crippling offensively."
Opponents have shifted the defensive focus onto DeRozan who insists he doesn’t feel any added pressure to score with Bargnani out of the lineup.
“Andrea makes everything so much easier,” said DeRozan. “I think it’s vice versa. We play off each other and we make things so much easier for everybody when we are out there.
“It’s tough, teams focus in on me a lot, but there’s no pressure. I’ve missed easy shots on my own so I wouldn’t consider it pressure.”
The Raptors will now head out on the road for five games starting out west against the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday before making stops in Phoenix, Utah, Denver and New Jersey. Both Bargnani and Bayless will be game-time decisions and should return to the lineup sometime during the road swing. Toronto will close out the month with a home game against the Atlanta Hawks on Jan. 31.
This article was originally published on Oye! Times
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