For Toronto sports fans who may have tuned into the Raptors game seeking an escape after watching the Leafs get dismantled, your misery only grew in the first three minutes of this ball game. The Spurs, who have the league’s best record and have won 15 straight at home, ran out to a 10-0 lead against the seemingly over-matched Raptors.
Any basketball fan should know a 10-0 run to open a game is not what it seems, but any modern day NBA fan or Raptors fan also knew the possibility for this game to get U-G-L-Y, in a hurry, was there.
So imagine the surprise then, when after a quick timeout by Jay Triano, the Raptors responded with a 17-7 run over the next six minutes, and a 23-12 run overall to end the first quarter up by one.
Even the eternal pessimist would have to credit the young Raptors for keeping it close after their start against the superior Spurs. But even the eternal Raptors optimist would have to admit they didn’t anticipate the warm and fuzzy feelings to last.
Toronto put together one of their best quarters of the season in the second frame, outscoring San Antonio 30-20 to take a 53-42 lead into the half. What was especially surprising, and encouraging to see for Raptors fans, was that the Raps were holding the Spurs to just 35 per cent shooting in that first half. They were not stubbornly and foolishly trying to outscore the Spurs, but rather they were beating a better team, on the road, by playing basketball the right way.
All this made for an interesting second half, which most would agree, on its own, was already a shock.
You knew though, that at some point in the second half, the Spurs would make their move. It wasn’t a matter of if, but when. Over the course of the third quarter, the suddenly sloppy Raptors saw their lead slowly dwindle, but managed to keep some distance between them and the Spurs…for eight minutes, that is.
Suddenly, the Spurs ended the quarter on a 16-4 run, and within a matter of minutes, the Raptors had gone from up six to down six.
The fourth quarter was even worse, as the mighty Spurs simply imposed their will, and the young Raptors were happy to lie down and let it happen until they began to fight back again in the final minutes.
A recurring theme in the last two losses for the Raptors has been the disappearance of Andrea Bargnani’s shot. Bargs has gone a combined 10-of-37 over the last two games in New Orleans and San Antonio, and one would have to infer that if Andrea had even come close to showing up, the Raps might have two stunning upsets in their pocket.
A more troubling stat is Andrea’s minutes played over those two games. Despite shooting 4-of-17 on Monday, he was rewarded with 42 minutes. Tonight, Andrea’s porous defence and 6-of-20 shooting earned him 36 minutes. Triano was visibly frustrated with Bargnani early in the third quarter, but decided to bench him for a grand total of just four minutes. Now that’s how you send a message.
There is no question that these two games were defensive battles, for the most part. And so a big like Joey Dorsey may have had an impact down the stretch. Unless Joey Dorsey has suffered an unreported injury, then it boggles my mind to see him get just nine minutes, combined, over the last two games, while Andrea shot his team’s chances away.
What was that quote from Jay about making everyone earn their minutes this season, no matter who it was? I hope you didn’t fall for that one, Raptors fans.
DeMar DeRozan was a bit disappointing in the second half for the Raptors, as he followed up a 20-point first half with an eight point, 2-of-8 second half. Though it also must be said that DeRozan stayed aggressive, and obviously had a solid game overall.
Ed Davis was impressive, yet again, as he played within his boundaries, finishing with 11 rebounds and a couple of assists, while only attempting two shots. For the record, he made both of them.
Another positive for the Raptors continues to be Julian Wright. Wright was 1-of-4 from the field in San Antonio, but continued to play defence, rebound and like Davis, know his limits. Most of all, Wright showed his unexpected passing ability with a couple of mesmerizing dimes.
Lastly, I wanted to mention Sundiata Gaines. This was easily his worst game (though he’s only played three) as a Raptor. His stat-line will show you that he made four of six shots, but it won’t tell you that he wasn’t decisive enough, made some poor decisions with the ball in general and forced his own shot too often. It was the total opposite of what we had seen from him in his fist two games.
So the Raptors fall to 13-29, losers of five straight, with stops in Orlando and Miami looming. Can you hear “Tank Nation” rejoicing?
Raptors Player of the Game: DeMar DeRozan – 41 Min, 28 Pts, 10-19 FG, 8-9 FT, 3 Reb, 1 Ast, 4 Stl, 5 TO
Spurs Player of the Game: DeJuan Blair – 35 Min, 22 Pts, 11-16 FG, 11 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk, 3 TO
Goat of the Game: Andrea Bargnani – 36 Min, 14 Pts, 6-20 FG, 1-5 3Pt, 1-1 FT, 7 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Stl, 2 Blk