The Toronto Raptors made the mistake of not finishing off the Portland Trail Blazers in regulation, leading to overtime which the home team are experts in, led by another clutch performance from Damian Lillard en route to a 102-97 win.
Amir Johnson hit a game-tying shot with 4.7 seconds left to leave the Blazers with one shot to try and win the game at the end of the fourth quarter. Lillard actually blew by two defenders on the pick and roll quite easily, but his aim on the layup and comfortable look at the basket was way off, and LaMarcus Aldridge couldn’t get a good grip on the ball when grabbing the offense rebound for the follow up.
But in overtime, the Blazers once again ran away with the game. Terrence Ross scored the first points of the extra period with a 3-pointer, but that just sparked the inner demon for the Blazers. Damian Lillard found Wesley Matthews with an excellent pass to tie the game with big 3-pointer, and on the next Blazers possession Lillard made his way along the baseline while Nicolas Batum freed up for a corner three pointer. Lillard was the one who hit the next big shot to open a six point lead which the Blazers never relinquished, although the Raptors did come close again before finally falling out of contention.
Lillard led Portland with 26 points in another performance which was mostly about him and the starters. LaMarcus Aldridge scored 23 points, Matthews finished with 19 and Batum, having a rough season offensively with just 9.3 points per game on 40% from the field, scored 13. Chris Kaman was mostly helpful with 10 points off the bench, but this remains a team that lives and dies on the ability of its two All-Stars to create points for themselves and others in money time.
A different thing about the Blazers this season is their defense. They are third in the NBA in defensive efficiency compared to being 16th last season. Last year it did look like the Blazers were moving ahead solely on individual ability and streaky shooting. A lot of that hasn’t changed, but it’s clear there’s more to this team than on what side of the bed Lillard woke up on, and this team is improving as time goes by.