Two of the hottest teams in the NBA will face off inside Scotiabank Arena on Friday, as the Toronto Raptors (45-17) play host to the Portland Trail Blazers (38-23). The Blazers are 4-0 in this road trip, and have won five in a row overall. The Raptors, on the other hand, have won eight of their last 10.
Tonight's game marks the second meeting of the season between these two teams. Portland won the first game back on Dec 14th, 128-122. The Blazers bench scored 58 points in the matchup, and eight different players scored in double figures.
As for tonight's game, the Raptors will be without backup guard Fred VanVleet as he continues to recover from a left thumb injury. The Blazers, well, they will be without Evan Turner who will miss his fourth game in a row after injuring his knee against the nets.
But perhaps the biggest missing piece for Portland will be newly acquired Enes Kanter. Kanter, who was signed off waivers on Febraury 13th, did not travel with the team due to visa issues.
In early January the Turkish Government, having labeled Kanter a terrorist, reportedly filed a request for the extradition of the NBA Star, asking for an Interpol "red notice." Later that month, while a member of the Knicks, Kanter did not travel out of the country to play a game in London. While some of this decision came from fear of extradition, so also came from fearing for his life. Kanter said to the media at the time, "There’s a chance that I can get killed out there. So that’s why I talked to the front office. I’m not going.”
With Kanter out, coach Stotts will likely return to the lineup the got him through the first three-quarters of the season, meaning fans could see a healthy dose of Zach Collins and Meyers Leonard on Friday, both of whom have fallen out of the normal rotation with the addition of Kanter.
"There's minutes to be had at the five spot, so Meyers and Zach need to be ready to play. Goes back to the way we were playing two weeks ago" Stotts said at shootaround.
During his availability prior to the game, coach Stotts also had some thoughts on the situation Kanter is facing.
"What Enes is going through... sometimes it's hard for us to even understand that, you know? Not to be able to leave a country for fear of being arrested or whatever. Having your home country kind of disown you, that's certainly a bigger issue than basketball.
Hear from coach Stotts right here: