Without Kyle Lowry for a second successive game, the new-look Toronto Raptors adapted and earned another close victory.
Behind 33 points from DeMar DeRozan and big performances from both Jonas Valanciunas and Serge Ibaka, the Raptors overcame another bad start to seize their third consecutive win, 112-106 over the Portland Trail Blazers.
Jonas Valanciunas contributed 15 points and seven rebounds. The versatile new Raptor Ibaka grabbed 10 boards and 18 points – including a potpourri of hook shots, fade-away jumpers, a monster put-back dunk and a pair of three-pointers.
Lowry was sidelined with a sore right wrist again Sunday, wearing a suit and sitting on the bench, animatedly coaching his teammates and squeezing his way into the coaches' huddles. Tests on the all-star point guard's wrist over the weekend showed no significant damage, but the team won't publicly diagnose it as anything other than a "sore wrist".
"It's gonna be day-to-day, treated symptomatically," Toronto coach Dwane Casey said. "Swelling's gone down, so that's a good sign. So we'll see. He'll be a day-to-day thing. It wasn't broken, so that helps."
Cory Joseph started in Lowry's place again, taking on the thorny task of defending two-time all-star point man Damian Lillard.
Much as they had Friday night against the Boston Celtics, the Raptors came out sluggish early in the game.
DeRozan tallied 12 points in the first quarter, yet still the Trail Blazers dominated the boards and led 28-25 at by the end of the quarter.
In the second quarter, the Raps allowed the Trail Blazers to build a 12-point lead before surging back right before the half to take a slim 53-52 lead into the locker room.
Inside the third quarter, the Raptors stretched the rally they began before the half into a 21-2 run. That run included perhaps the most exciting moment yet of Ibaka's two games as a Raptor – he hauled in a rebound of a Cory Joseph shot and threw down a monster put-back dunk.
The Raptors continued to experiment with a rotation, accounting for the new Raptors and coping with Lowry's absence.
Valanciunas, who played only 18 minutes Friday against the Celtics because Casey felt the matchups didn't suit him, this time played 22, while defending 7-foot, 280-pound centre Jusuf Nurkic, who was held to eight points and four boards on the night.
"Jonas did a better job in the second half offensively, establishing post position, getting deep and so did Serge," Casey said. "When teams go small like that, he has the ability to guard their perimeter guy out on the floor, plus he has an advantage in the low post, and that's the difference. I thought Jonas did a good job in the second half of getting deep post position on Nurkic, compared to the first half."
Late in a tight fourth quarter, the Raptors once again turned to the lineup of DeRozan, Ibaka, Joseph, DeMarre Carroll and newly acquired veteran P.J Tucker as they tried to hold the late lead by slowing hot-shooting Lillard.
Ibaka erupted for a nine-point fourth quarter, plus two boards, while DeRozan dumped in seven points. Lillard finished with 28 points (11 of them in the fourth quarter), six rebounds and eight assists in another strong game in Toronto for the Portland star.
"We didn't have our queen bee in there, our top guy to get the hammer ball offensively, defensively, three-point shooting is a definite – we miss that," said Casey of Lowry. "But Cory did a heck of a job of attacking the rim, getting to the basket, running the offence and chasing around Lillard, a good job of filling in for Kyle."
The Raptors improved to 35-24, and edged closer to the third-place 34-23 Wizards, who lost to the Utah Jazz on Sunday. The Trail Blazers fell to 24-34, 10th in the West. (24-33)
Next up for the Raptors is a Monday night road game against the New York Knicks. Then come two critical games against the Wizards – Wednesday in Toronto, and Friday in Washington.