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A couple of 2006 draft picks went to battle in a pretty good ball game

Two injury-ravaged teams met at the Air Canada Centre on Friday night, and managed to put on a good show for the Toronto faithful.

It’s a good thing that many of the 15 625 fans inside the ACC weren’t in their seats for the first couple of minutes of the game though, because they would have seen some ugly basketball. The two teams combined for five turnovers in the game’s first 54 seconds, and went scoreless on the first seven possessions.

Ed Davis, who replaced the injured Amir Johnson in the starting lineup, provided the Raptors with an early spark by crashing the glass and chasing down loose balls. Even Andrea Bargnani could be seen hustling up and down the floor in that first quarter.

Toronto’s defence was decent to start the game, and after starting 1-of-5, the offence clicked on seven straight possessions. Before the home fans could get ahead of themselves though, the Blazers went on an 11-2 run to end the quarter.

Portland continued to pull away in the second quarter on the back of some perfect shooting from Rudy Fernandez. Fernandez, whose career high in points is 26, had 23 in the first half, on 8-of-8 shooting and 6-of-6 beyond the arc. Rudy’s hot hand and the Raptors’ defence falling into their usual malaise had the Blazers up 15 midway through the second quarter, but Toronto closed the half well to go into the break down just eight.

Like the Spurs game, the Raptors’ offence was rolling against a solid defensive team. Toronto shot 52 per cent in the first half, but again, like that Spurs game, allowed their opponents to shoot over 60 per cent in the opening half.

It was the Raptors that used some carry-over momentum from the end of the second quarter into the third, and the Raps actually put together quite the quarter. Davis continued to provide energy, DeMar DeRozan continued to shoot the ball well and Andrea Bargnani, for the second consecutive game, showed signs of coming out of his horrible shooting slump. Toronto held Portland to just 17 points in the third, as they did a better job of containing Fernandez and LaMarcus Aldridge.

It all set up another interesting fourth quarter, as the Blazers’ lead was down to two.

To start the fourth, the Raptors looked to take the lead, and Jerryd Bayless helped them do just that. Bayless, playing against his former team, scored all 18 of his points in the fourth quarter, including four three-pointers. When it wasn’t Bayless in the fourth quarter, Bargnani filled in, and the Raptors had actually taken control with less than six minutes remaining.

However, as has been the case so many times with this young Raptors team, they simply lacked the skill and savvy to put a superior team away in the final minutes. Aldridge carried the load as the Trail Blazers fought back and eventually took control, themselves.

Bayless continued to keep the Raptors’ hopes alive in the final minute, but Jerryd and the Raps came up just short…again.

It’s increasingly difficult to find positives as the team falls to 14-40, but there were some on Friday night.

Aside from Bayless’ fourth quarter explosion against his former teammates, Bargnani shot the ball well for the second game in a row and actually seemed to be in the game defensively. Andrea also moved well without the ball, something the big Italian still needs to improve in his game. DeRozan continued to be efficient on the offensive end and forced some turnovers on the defensive end.

And as mentioned repeatedly, Ed Davis was a bundle of energy tonight in his spot start. Davis grabbed seven offensive rebounds and 13 total rebounds in just 28 minutes.

There’s no question that the Blazers’ 16 turnovers helped keep the Raptors in the game, as Portland shot 54 per cent when they were actually able to get a shot off. But the Raptors also played well, and deserve some credit for hanging around until the final 10 seconds against a Western playoff team.

At the end of the day, what is there to really complain about? The Raptors provided another exciting basketball game and quality entertainment for their home crowd, while still keeping their increasing lottery hopes alive and kicking.

Raptors Player of the Game: Andrea Bargnani – 43 Min, 29 Pts, 10-17 FG, 1-1 3Pt, 8-9 FT, 6 Reb, 4 Ast, 1 Stl, 5 TO

Trail Blazers Player of the Game: LaMarcus Aldridge – 42 Min, 37 Pts, 14-25 FG, 9-12 FT, 10 Reb, 2 Ast, 2 Stl, 2 Blk, 4 TO

Goat of the Game: Leandro Barbosa – 20 Min, 6 Pts, 2-8 FG, 0-2 3Pt, 2-2 FT, 1 Reb, 3 Ast, TO