Blazers, McCollum roll into meeting with Raptors
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TORONTO -- The Portland Trail Blazers are surging, and guard CJ McCollum provided an exclamation mark Wednesday night when he scored a career-best 50 points.
The 124-108 victory over the Chicago Bulls at the Moda Center was the fourth in a row for the Trail Blazers, who will begin a three-game road trip Friday night against the Toronto Raptors, who lost 122-119 to the Washington Wizards on Thursday night.
The Raptors led by seven points after the first half, but Bradley Beal scored 25 of his 27 points in the second half.
"They came out of the locker room running and we couldn't catch their speed," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said.
The Trail Blazers (29-22) have won seven of their past eight games and could be primed to make up for a 99-85 loss to the Raptors at Portland on Oct. 30. The Trail Blazers were held to six points in the second quarter in that game.
McCollum scored 28 of his points Wednesday in the first quarter, which is a team record for any quarter. He played an economical 29 minutes, sitting out the fourth quarter.
"That was crazy," said point guard Damian Lillard, who set Portland's single-game scoring record with 59 points against the Utah Jazz last season. "It was an off night for everybody else."
Lillard had 13 points and seven assists against the Bulls.
"I knew it in the first quarter," Lillard said. "I saw him get some looks. Once he hit a couple of those tough ones, I was like, 'I recognize that feeling.' I saw the rhythm he was playing with. At that point, it was my job to make sure he got the ball in his hands as many times as possible. He just kept rolling. Some people can keep going and going and going. CJ is one of those people. We got away from running sets. He just scored. It was a great performance."
The Blazers have had seven players with 50 points in a game.
"A lot of the elite players score 50 points," McCollum said. "It shows that you're a unique scorer and have a lot of ability to do it in three quarters. It's a credit to our staff for helping develop me, hard work, teammates sharing, setting screens, sacrificing a lot of stuff throughout the season. A lot of times they don't get the credit they deserve. I score 50 points, but there are a lot of guys not taking shots and trying to get me the ball. It's a credit to everyone."
With an 11-5 record, the Trail Blazers had the most wins in the NBA in January.
"Right before All-Star break we wanted to go on a run and take care of home court, beat teams that are under .500 and steal some games one the road," McCollum said. "This is a big road trip for us."
The Blazers also play the Boston Celtics and the Detroit Pistons on their trip.
"If we continue to play how we've been playing on both ends of the floor, we'll have a chance in every game," Lillard said.
The Raptors (34-16) are 19-4 at the Air Canada Centre.
Toronto led 62-55 at halftime at Washington on Thursday.
"They started running in the second half," Casey said. "We didn't do a good job of getting back in transition. They had four transition points in the first half and 16, I think, in the second half. That was the difference in the game."
"They came out aggressive," said Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan, who scored 23 points Thursday. "They came out with a sense of urgency. We've got to understand that when we're up, even i we're not up, teams are going to continue to go at us. ... as long as there is time on the clock, we have to keep our intensity up."
Raptors guard Kyle Lowry scored 17 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter but missed two key free throws late in the game.
"I wasn't the way I should have been," Lowry said. "I wasn't clutch enough. Trust me, I will be next time."
The Raptors were without forward-guard C.J. Miles, who missed his second straight game with a sore right knee, and reserve point guard Fred VanVleet, who stayed in Toronto to help with his newborn daughter.
VanVleet will be available Friday night.
Updated February 1, 2018