The Trail Blazers changed their starting lineup Sunday night, accommodating new guard Norman Powell with a three-guard look.
But any sort of judgment about how that worked likely went out the window 4:41 into the game, when Powell picked up his second foul and departed the game.
Portland, though, used a big third quarter to get past Toronto 122-117 in Tampa and post its third straight win on this road trip.
It was a strange defensive night for the Trail Blazers, who gave up 41 points in the first quarter, 33 in the second and 33 in the fourth, but only 10 in the third.
And that was the difference.
“Everybody was kind of locked in,” Coach Terry Stotts said. “Obviously they missed their threes. I don't know what they shot from the three in the third quarter, but the three-point shot was a big part of their offense in the first half, and they missed a lot of those threes in the third quarter. But I liked our activity. I liked our aggressiveness, we rebounded the ball, they didn't get a lot of second shots. We limited their transition, so the things that we talked about at halftime were all those type of plays that made the difference in the third quarter.”
The Raptors were red-hot from three-point range in the first half, hitting 10 of 22 – a lot of them wide open. But they connected on just 4 of 20 in the second half.
The Trail Blazers, by the way, were shaky from three-point range all night, hitting just 10 of 34. But Portland got double-figure scoring from seven players and all who played scored.
Stotts has not committed to the three-guard lineup as an opening group, but he has served notice Powell is going to get minutes with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.
“He's going to have his opportunities to do that,” Stotts said. “I'm not sure what the rotation is going to look like, going forward -- whether he starts, comes off the bench, plays with the second unit.
“But to be honest, I thought tonight, he had minutes both with the starters and the second unit. And he really had an impact on the game in the second half.”
Lillard liked the way it felt in his first start alongside Powell.
“If you look at our history of having three-guard lineups… typically we do well with three-guard lineups,” Lillard said. “And he's a physical guard. So, with the way the league is going and teams playing small ball, I think it's fine.”
The smaller lineups tend to spark more ball movement for the Trail Blazers and they had 24 assists, including 11 by Lillard.
Derrick Jones, who did not start in favor of Powell, played 21:17, scored 16 points on seven of nine shooting – with two highlight-reel plays. He hit a layup off a 360-spin, drawing a foul, and dunked off an inbound pass from Lillard.
McCollum scored 23 on 9-18 shooting.