NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Toronto Raptors Preview, Predictions, Betting Picks

Carmelo AnthonyInjuries can throw a major wrench in any team’s season and the 15-22 Portland Trail Blazers and 24-12 Toronto Raptors have experienced that this season. These squads face each other in Toronto today (7 p.m. ET Tuesday).

Portland has big men Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins as well as wing Rodney Hood on the shelf for the entire season. Other players haven’t missed too much time, but the loss of three key rotation players has really thrown off the Blazers’ season.

The Raptors haven’t had catastrophic injuries, but pretty much every main player on the team has missed somewhere between five to 12 games. In today’s contest, Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, Marc Gasol and Norman Powell will all be out.

How will the contest play out? We have identified three main questions that will figure strongly into the outcome. At the end, we will talk about how you should bet on the game with the US betting sites, as part of our Portland Trail Blazers vs Toronto Raptors predictions.

Is Carmelo Anthony’s Outside Shooting Stroke Going to Be There?

Many people, including me, questioned the Trail Blazers’ signing of Carmelo Anthony in November. As it turns out, though, his scoring at the stretch 4 position has been helpful in keeping the Blazers in the playoff hunt, especially in the first few weeks after his signing. Without him, this injury-plagued Portland would be a bit closer to the bottom of the West.

Anthony is still far from a great player at this stage in his career, though. He gives lackluster effort on defense and provides little to the Blazers aside from scoring. He has also been an inconsistent scorer.

A common thread in Portland wins, though, has been Anthony catching fire from three-point range. He is knocking down a spectacular 53.1 percent of his downtown attempts in Blazer wins, but just 30 percent in Blazer losses. Can he give superstar teammate Damian Lillard some offensive assistance in this contest?

Will Boucher Give a Lift to the Raptors Inside?

The Raptors have had several role players step up with unexpectedly good seasons this year. Norman Powell, Terence Davis, Chris Boucher, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Matt Thomas have all stepped up with strong campaigns when head coach Nick Nurse has called their numbers.

In this game, I’m putting the spotlight on Boucher. The Raptors are missing center Marc Gasol due to injury and he would have seen a lot of time guarding Blazers center in this game. He is out, though, which means the responsibility will fall on Serge Ibaka and Boucher.

Ibaka has a solid frame and should be able to do OK against a slightly stronger and longer Whiteside. While Boucher is long, he is also rail-thin at 6’9 ‘ and just 200 pounds. He’s a good defender due to length, explosiveness and awareness, but he is at a considerable size and strength disadvantage against Whiteside if the Blazers center wants to be aggressive down low.

If Boucher can hold his ground and make plays where he can, it will give the injury-plagued Raptors an emotional lift.

Will Motivation and Effort Factor Into This Contest?

There are many more factors that go into the outcome of an NBA game than merely the talent level of the teams. Things like crowd support, team chemistry, coaching and fatigue level are also very important.

One other key factor in NBA games is simply which team wants to win more. The team that is more hungry will win more loose balls, run harder in transition and be more aggressive on drives and when establishing position near the basket.

In this game, it would make sense if the Raptors were to play harder. They are smack dab in the middle of a tight battle for the Eastern Conference seeds two through six, while the Blazers may be starting to feel like this is a lost season. They are still right in the thick of the playoff hunt, but that is due to the surprising lack of depth in the West, not the Blazers’ success.

We will see if I am right that the Raptors play harder in this game. It could be that some of the Blazers play harder than expected in an attempt to recapture the No. 8 seed. They might even play hard to improve their trade value.

Our Betting Preview’s Portland Trail Blazers vs Toronto Raptors Predictions & Picks

A lot of things are pointing toward the Raptors in this game for me. The Blazers haven’t been home since last year (which was December 30) and have lost six out of seven games against a pretty reasonable schedule.

Toronto seems to play hard every night. The Raptors have a deep roster with a lot of versatility and athleticism regardless of which players are injured at a given time, and the motivation of playing for a high seed in the East should be big for them. These are the Portland Trail Blazers vs Toronto Raptors predictions for this betting preview:

  • Not many of the USA sportsbooks have published their odds at time of writing this NBA game preview, but 5Dimes is typically ahead of the game. Their narrow favorite is the Raptors by one point. The betting lines may shift a bit one way or the other once all the firms get brave enough to lay a bet, but we advise having a wager on the Raptors -1pt @ -110 with 5Dimes.
  • With all the injuries, I see both teams playing this game a bit slower. Toronto’s role players should play extra hard on defense, knowing that the squad doesn’t have the offensive talent to get away with lazy defense. I recommend betting the under 220 total points @ -110 with 5Dimes.