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Monday, December 6, 2021

Powell didn’t need a fairytale night for the Trail Blazers to outrun the Raptors

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PORTLAND – You must have exceptional self-confidence to go from being the 46th player chosen in the NBA Draft – partly because you have been judged a poor shooter – to becoming one of the best long-range shooters in the world, and on your own road to earning $ 150 million in what could very well end up being a career spanning 15 years.

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

Hers is a fairytale story, except that the magic wand is hours and hours of solitude in the gyms to build skills when no one was watching.

Powell wanted to remain a raptor. He is pleased with Portland Trail Blazers but, when asked how it all turned out with him being treated after six years in Toronto, he said this:

“I think you can see the business side of it. I saw politics and things in basketball in the beginning that helped me navigate, “he said.” You know, how things work behind the scenes that people don’t really get to see. But I think it’s good for me. experience something new and find a way to manage and deal with it. I think I did a great job of managing it. “

A fairytale night it would be Powell leading his new team to victory.

It didn’t quite happen that way.

The Trail Blazers worked their way to the 118-113 win with a 20-7 run to start the fourth quarter of what was, at that point, a draw. The Raptors have rejected several times. Trailing 11 with 4:09 left, Fred VanVleet hit a long three in transition, set up Pascal Siakami for a float in the paint and – after a couple of three missed by 1st floor Anunoby – grabbed the rebound and shot down three more. This made the game a point with 1:51 to play. But Portland scored six unanswered points from there to break away for good.

The Raptors dropped to 7-8 at the start of their six-game journey, while Portland improved to 7-8 by winning the second night of a back-to-back.

Powell did not have the night signing at both ends of the pitch, finishing with 12 points out of 3 out of 9 shooting.

Instead, it was Gary Trent Jr. who showed well against his old team in his old building, scoring 18 points out of 8 out of 16 shots, even though he suffered the misfortune of having his old teammate. CJ McCollum put the game on ice when he scored on Trent Jr. in solitary confinement in the last minute of the match.

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

The reason, at least last night, is that the Raptors struggled along the defensive phase. There are probably many factors at play there: trying to contain McCollum and … Damian Lillard it’s a task that many teams have failed before.

It probably doesn’t help that the Raptors owners all played between 39 and 41 minutes. But, again, Raptors manager Nick Nurse clearly has no confidence in his bench at the moment. Perhaps for good reason: Dalano Banton, Svi Mykhailiuk and Malachi Flynn scored -28 in 20 minutes on the pitch.

“I would say this, I don’t think we have protected very well as a team,” said Nurse. “I don’t know if it’s matchups and stuff, I just think I mean when they shoot 56 percent …”

McCollum and Lillard scored 29 and 24 points respectively, combining to shoot 21 for 39 and 9 for 17 from three. Meanwhile, the Portland bench has combined to shoot 16 for 23.

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

Powell was 0 of 4 from the bottom, which is unusual for him. He entered the game by shooting 44.8 percent from the depth this season for Portland. When it traded for Trent Jr. at the deadline last March, it was pulling 43.9% for the Raptors.

It is a skill that has made him very rich. Last summer he signed a five-year contract for $ 90 million. The shooters get paid. When the Raptors try to sell young players on the basis of their player development program it’s not difficult: examples like Powell, going from rookie idle to where he is now, speak for themselves.

His success is easy to cheer on.

“It’s another milestone, of course. Set up for life practically. 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 best players have. This has always been my goal. Obviously it changes according to the roles and things like that with the team, but those will always be my expectations, so I will continue to work and I will continue to disconnect. “

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


One of the reasons the Trail Blazers wanted to trade with Powell is that they thought he might carry some defensive chops as well.

But one of the reasons the Raptors felt comfortable switching 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 straight to their old friend from the moment the ball hit the Modo Center.

The Blazers started very small along their backcourt, with Powell six feet tall forward along with guards Lillard and McCollum. This meant Powell was the one protecting Anunoby, giving up five inches and 30 pounds. And that meant it was the matchup the Raptors were looking for in the beginning.

Anunoby – himself a pretty compelling product of the Raptors’ player development program – was more than ready. He exploded in the first quarter for 14 points out of 5 of 6 shots, including all four of his three. They weren’t all about Powell – sometimes the Raptors’ ball movement was good enough that Powell and the rest of his team were chasing the ghosts behind the ball. But there were many where Anunoby was simply the biggest and best player.

The Raptors had Portland hot on their heels, taking the lead 33-24.

Powell hoped 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.”

It’s a mentality that has served him well. His evolution as a shooter – he has only shot 31% from depth in four years at UCLA – is an example of how his determination and self-confidence have manifested themselves in results on the pitch.

“I always say, yes, we can give them suggestions and make changes, get things done and then it goes straight to their table to go to work on it,” Raptors manager Nick Nurse said. “And you guys know how hard he worked to become an NBA shooter and now an elite NBA shooter. I just hope he doesn’t do too many tonight. We are proud of him but (not) tonight, sometimes it goes like this. “

There wasn’t a concern, it turns out. Powell was wide open in the corner on his first touch, but cocked him short. He also missed his next look at three o’clock. He lost the ball out of bounds by driving left and didn’t score his first circle until he was fouled in transition in the middle of the second quarter.

Fortunately, the Blazers aren’t short of guys who can score. McCollum and Lillard got together for 18 points at a 7 for 10 shot when Portland started to catch up. Anunoby continued his shot, adding nine points in the second quarter to finish with 23 before half-time as he went 6 for 8 from three. He cooled down considerably in the second half, finishing with 29.

As a team, Toronto only shot 36% in the quarter. A lay-up by Powell with 54 seconds left gave Portland the first lead at 61-60, and that’s how they started the second half.

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

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