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Powell didn’t need a storybook night for Trail Blazers to overcome Raptors

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PORTLAND – You have to have an exceptional amount of self-belief to go from being the 46th player taken in the NBA draft – in part because you were judged a poor shooter – to becoming one of the best long-range gunners in the world, and on your way to earning $150 million in what could very well end up being a career that runs 15 years.

But that’s Norman Powell, the former member of the Toronto Raptors who hosted his old team in Portland for the first time Monday night since he was traded last season.

His is very much a fairy tale story except for that the magic wand is hours upon lonely hours in gyms building skill when no one was watching.

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Powell wanted to stay a Raptor. He’s happy with the Portland Trail Blazers but, when asked him about how everything went down that ended up with him getting dealt after six years in Toronto, he said this:

“I think you get to see the business side of it. I’ve seen the politics and stuff in basketball early on which has helped me navigate,” he said. “You know, how things work behind the scenes that that people don’t really get to see. But I think it’s good for me to experience something new and find a way to manage it and deal with it. I think I’ve done a great job of handling it.”

A storybook night would have been Powell leading his new team to the win.

It didn’t quite work out that way.

The Trail Blazers pulled way for the 118-113 win with a 20-7 run to start the fourth quarter of what was, at that point, a tie game. The Raptors pushed back multiple times. Trailing by 11 with 4:09 left, Fred VanVleet hit a long three in transition, set up Pascal Siakam for a floater in the paint and – after a pair of missed threes by OG Anunoby – grabbed the rebound and knocked down another three. That made it a one-point game with 1:51 to play. But Portland scored six unanswered points from there to pull away for good.

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The Raptors fell to 7-8 as they begin their six-game road trip, while Portland improved to 7-8 while winning on the second night of a back-to-back.

A season-shaping stretch begins
The Raptors kicked off the most challenging stretch of their schedule on Monday against the Trail Blazers, starting a six-game, 11-day road trip that could define their season. Here’s what to watch for.

Powell didn’t have signature night at either end of the floor, finishing with 12 points on 3-of-9 shooting.

Instead, it was Gary Trent Jr. who showed well against his old team in his old building, putting up 18 points on 8-of-16 shooting, though he did suffer the misfortune of having his old teammate CJ McCollum put the game on ice when he scored on Trent Jr. in isolation in the game’s final minute.

But Powell will at least have bragging rights to hold over VanVleet in their frequent text exchanges, as the Trail Blazers improved to 2-0 over the Raptors since he joined them, going back to last season.

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The reason last night at least, was that the Raptors struggled down the stretch defensively. There are likely a lot of factors at work there – trying to contain McCollum and Damian Lillard is a task many teams have failed before.

It probably doesn’t help that the Raptors’ starters all played between 39 and 41 minutes. But, then again, Raptors head coach Nick Nurse clearly doesn’t have confidence in his bench at the moment. Perhaps with good reason: Dalano Banton, Svi Mykhailiuk and Malachi Flynn were a combined -28 in 20 minutes of floor time.

“I would say this, I don’t think as a team we guarded very well,” said Nurse. “I don’t know if it’s looking at matchups and things like that, I just think that I mean when they shoot 56 per cent …”

Stream 250+ marquee NBA matchups from around the league, including over 40 Raptors games. Plus, get news, highlights, analysis, select NBA Playoff matchups and the NBA Draft.

McCollum and Lillard scored 29 and 24 points, respectively, while combining to shoot 21-of-39 and 9-of-17 from three. Meanwhile Portland’s bench combined to shoot 16-of-23.

“I just feel we’re not playing the same type of defence when we were on that five-game winning streak,” said Khem Birch. “Even myself, I gotta stop thinking about my man, play more team defence. I think we just gotta play more team defence in general.”

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Powell was 0-of-4 from deep which is unusual for him. He came into the game shooting 44.8 per cent from deep this season for Portland. When he was traded for Trent Jr. at the deadline last March, he was shooting 43.9 per cent for the Raptors.

It’s a skill that has made him very wealthy. This past summer he signed a five-year contract for $90 million. Shooters get paid. When the Raptors try sell young players on the merits of their player development program it’s not hard: examples like Powell, going from rookie minimum to where he is now, speak for themselves.

His success is easy to root for.

“It’s another milestone, obviously. Set for life pretty much. But you know, it’s a milestone for me and I’m always looking for the next challenge,” he said. “You know, I want to establish myself as one of the best players in the league. I want to make an All-Star team, I want to win the awards that the top players have. That’s always been my goal. Obviously, it changes based on roles and things like that with the team but those will always be my expectations so I’m going to continue to work and continue to plug away.”

Toronto Raptors forward OG Anunoby, left, shoots over Portland Trail Blazers forward Norman Powell during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Monday, Nov. 15, 2021. (Craig Mitchelldyer/AP)



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One of reasons the Trail Blazers wanted to trade for Powell is they thought he could bring some defensive chops, too.

But one of the reasons the Raptors felt comfortable moving on from Powell was that they weren’t sold on his abilities to be the kind of defender they felt they needed.

And as if to prove it, the Raptors went right at their old pal from the moment the ball went up at Modo Center.

The Blazers started very small across their backcourt, with the six-foot-three Powell at forward alongside guards Lillard and McCollum. That meant Powell was the one who guarded Anunoby, giving up five inches and 30 pounds. And that meant he was the matchup the Raptors were hunting in the early going.

Anunoby – himself a pretty convincing product of the Raptors player development program – was more than ready. He exploded in the first quarter for 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting, including making all four of his threes. They weren’t all on Powell – at times the Raptors’ ball movement was good enough that Powell and the rest of his team were chasing ghosts behind the ball. But there were several where Anunoby was simply the bigger and better player.

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The Raptors had Portland on their heels early, jumping out to a 33-24 lead.

Powell was hoping that he could put a number on his old team.

“I’m competitive, so we’re all competitive,” he said with a smile. “Competing with those guys is fun.”

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It’s a mindset that has served him well. His evolution as a shooter – he shot just 31 per cent from deep in four years at UCLA – is one example of how his determination and self-belief have manifested in on-court results.

“I always say this, yeah, we can give ‘em suggestions and make tweaks, do things and then it goes squarely right on their table to go to work on it,” said Raptors head coach Nick Nurse. “And you guys know how hard that guy worked to become an NBA shooter and now an NBA elite shooter. I Just hope he doesn’t make too many tonight. We’re proud of him but (not) tonight, that’s the way it goes sometimes.”

There was not a worry, turns out. Powell was wide open in the corner on his first touch but short armed it. He missed his next look at three, too. He lost the ball out of bounds driving left and didn’t score his first hoop until he was fouled in transition midway through the second quarter.

Fortunately, the Blazers aren’t short of guys who can score. McCollum and Lillard combined for 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting as Portland began clawing back. Anunoby kept his roll going, adding nine second-quarter points to finish with 23 before halftime as he went 6-of-8 from three. He cooled considerably in the second half, finishing with 29.

As a team Toronto shot just 36 per cent in the quarter. A Powell lay-up with 54 seconds left gave Portland their first lead at 61-60, which is how they started second half.

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The Trail Blazers were the better team from there, even if Powell wasn’t at his best, but he didn’t need to be. The Raptors were far from their best either.



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LeBron James on whether Kyrie Irving can help Lakers: 'Duh'

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LeBron James has no doubt that Kyrie Irving would make the Lakers a contender, but he noted that he’s not in the team’s front office.



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NBA Roundup: Gilgeous-Alexander drops 42 in Thunder win; Clippers top Knicks in OT

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OKLAHOMA CITY — Canada’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 42 points and Oklahoma City set a Thunder record for points to rout Houston.

Oklahoma City surpassed the 150 it scored in a win over the Boston Celtics last month.

Gilgeous-Alexander shot 7 for 23 in a loss to the Rockets on Wednesday night. He bounced back to make 14 of 23 field goals in the rematch, falling two points short of his career high. The first-time All-Star also made 14 of 15 free throws and had six assists.

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Josh Christopher and TyTy Washington each scored 20 points for Houston.

NETS 125, WIZARDS 123

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NEW YORK — Cam Thomas scored a career-high 44 points off the bench and short-handed Brooklyn overcame a 23-point deficit to beat Washington.

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Edmond Sumner also set a personal best with 29 points. Brooklyn guard Kyrie Irving was out with what the team said was right calf soreness a day after he told the Nets he wants to be traded.

The Nets, who also played without Kevin Durant (right knee MCL sprain), T.J. Warren (left shin contusion) and Ben Simmons (left knee soreness), also lost Seth Curry (left adductor) and Markieff Morris (sore left knee) in the game.

Kristaps Porzingis led the Wizards with 38 points.

SUNS 116, PISTONS 100

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DETROIT — Deandre Ayton had 31 points and 16 rebounds to help Phoenix beat Detroit.

The surging Sungs have won eight of 10 games, including a victory at Boston on Friday night, and have help on the way with Devin Booker nearing his return. The three-time All-Star guard has been out since Christmas with a groin injury, but dunked in warmups in another sign that he’s close to coming back.

Chris Paul had 14 assists for a balanced offence that didn’t need him to make shots, finishing 0 for 7 and without a field goal for the first time since March 18, 2017, when he helped the Los Angeles Clippers beat Cleveland by 30 points.

Mikal Bridges scored 24 points, Cameron Johnson had 20 points and Torrey Craig added 14 points for Phoenix. Saddiq Bey had 25 points for Detroit.

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BUCKS 123, HEAT 115

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MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo had a triple-double with 35 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists and Milwaukee beat short-handed Miami for its seventh straight victory.

Jimmy Butler scored 32 points and Tyler Herro added 24 for the Heat, who had just nine available players. Notable injured Miami players included Kyle Lowry (sore left knee) and Victor Oladipo (sprained right ankle).

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Antetokounmpo had his third triple-double of the season and 32nd of his career. The 11 assists matched his season high.

Antetokounmpo’s latest triple-double came two nights after he scored 54 points in a 106-105 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers. During the Bucks’ six-game winning streak, Antetokounmpo is averaging 39.4 points, 14.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists.

WARRIORS 119 MAVERICKS 113

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SAN FRANCISCO — Stephen Curry had 21 points, seven assists and six rebounds before injuring his left leg defending a drive and Golden State beat an undermanned Dallas team missing injured star Luka Doncic.

The Warriors said X-rays for Curry were negative, and he will have an MRI exam.

Draymond Green added 17 points, nine rebounds and nine assists for Golen State.

Spencer Dinwiddie scored 25 points for Dallas. Doncic bruised his right heel in the third quarter of 111-106 home victory against New Orleans on Thursday night.

PELICANS 131, LAKERS 126

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NEW ORLEANS — LeBron James moved 36 points away from breaking the NBA career scoring record in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 131-126 loss to New Orleans on Saturday night that ended the Pelicans’ losing streak at 10 games.

James had 27 points to go with nine rebounds and six assists as he continued to close in on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s record total of 38,387 points.

Brandon Ingram scored 35 points for the Pelicans.

CJ McCollum had 23 points, highlighted by a late 3 to help New Orleans close out the final 3:14 on a 9-5 run that kept the Lakers at bay.

Anthony Davis had 34 points and 14 rebounds for the Lakers.

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CLIPPERS 134, KNICKS 128, OT

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NEW YORK — Kawhi Leonard scored 35 points, Paul George added 30 and Los Angeles beat New York in overtime.

After the Clippers lost a 17-point fourth quarter lead, Nicolas Batum’s 3-pointer at the regulation buzzer tied it at 115.

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The Clippers scored the first four points of overtime and never relinquished the lead. Leonard connected on all of his eight free throws in the extra session, finishing 12 for 12 from the line.

Norman Powell added 24 points for the Clippers and Marcus Morris Sr. had 17. Los Angeles has won seven of nine.

Jalen Brunson, who returned after missing a game due to a non-COVID illness, led the Knicks with 41 points. Julius Randle had 28.

BULLS 129, TRAIL BLAZERS 121

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CHICAGO — Zach LaVine scored 36 points, DeMar DeRozan had 27 and Chicago topped Damian Lillard and Portland.

Nikola Vucevic added 23 points and 11 rebounds as Chicago won for the third time in four games, erasing a 17-point deficit in the second half.

Lillard scored 40 points for Portland, and Anfernee Simons had 27. But the Trail Blazers looked a little tired in the second half of their third game in four nights. Portland had won five of six, including a 124-116 victory at Washington on Friday night.

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Tre White's 22 points leads USC to hard-fought 80-74 victory over Washington

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Tre White led the USC Trojans to the hard-fought 80-74 win over the Washington Huskies. White led all scorers on the night with 22 points and added eight rebounds on the night.



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