You weren’t expecting anything else, were you?
Once again, the Raptors got off to a decent start on the shoulders of hot shooting by DeMar DeRozan and Andrea Bargnani and the usual intensity of Amir Johnson. Bargnani and DeRozan combined for 21 points in the first quarter, and the Raptors scored 29 points on the Spurs in that first frame, but they gave up 31.
Unlike Tuesday night in Milwaukee, the Raptors actually kept their hot shooters involved through the second and third quarters, as Andrea and DeMar continued to build on the solid games they were putting together.
Aside from an early scare that occurred when Amir Johnson sprained his ankle (Amir did return in the second quarter), the Raptors enjoyed a pretty successful first half, all things considered. They scored 56 points, were down just four against the league-leading Spurs and shot nearly 58 percent in the half. But the Spurs lead the league in wins for a reason, and they showed it in that first half with picture-perfect passing and ball movement that resulted in them shooting 62.5 per cent.
This was one of the rare instances this season where Toronto’s opponents’ efficient shooting had little to do with the Raptors’ lack of resistance.
The third quarter was the highlight of the night for the Raptors and their fans (unless you were really amped for Leandro Barbosa’s pizza-clinching free throw in the final minute). Roberto Alomar and a big Sonny Weems alley-oop jam seemed to liven up the crowd, and the Raptors used the energy to stage a 13-2 run that actually had them up by three heading into the fourth quarter.
But the fourth quarter is what usually separates the men from the boys, the contenders from the pretenders, in this league. Or in this case, it’s what separates a 44-win team from a 14-win team.
The final quarter was basically an elite, veteran team asserting their will and pulling away from a very poor, young team. The Raptors were held to just eight points in the first nine minutes of the quarter and were outscored 30-16 over the course of the fourth, as DeJuan Blair out-muscled the Raptors’ big men to provide San Antonio’s X-factor. It also didn’t help that Toronto decided to go away from Bargnani and DeRozan at this juncture of the game.
In the end, what was supposed to happen happened, though the Raptors did continue to prove that a young team will get up for a clash with an elite team more easily than they will for a battle with a fellow cellar-dweller.
Bargnani scored 29 points and was fantastic, offensively, looking more like the player who dropped 41 at Madison Square Garden than the guy who couldn’t keep up with Luke Harangody. Though Andrea’s rebounding total of two can definitely be called into question, specifically on some failed box-outs in the fourth quarter.
DeRozan finished with 25 points and was equally as impressive as Bargnani. It was encouraging to see the youngster get to the free throw line seven times, after going three straight games without a single trip.
Another positive for the Raptors was the play of Leandro Barbosa, who scored 20 points and looked comfortable on the floor, despite playing in only his second game after a long layoff.
As for the negatives, besides the team losing for the 15th time in 16 games, Jose Calderon continued to shoot the ball poorly, Amir Johnson sprained his ankle, Sonny Weems still looked lost on the floor for most of the night and Ed Davis didn’t exactly have one of his best performances. Although with Ed, he did take a nasty spill in the third quarter, and seemed to be having problems with his left wrist after that.
Another Raptors-related note I wanted to pass along was a scolding that Jay Triano looked to be delivering to DeRozan. In the second quarter, Triano called a timeout, and when the players sat down, Jay walked up to DeMar, and looked to be pretty pissed about something. I was nowhere near close enough to hear what was said, and it may not have been negative at all or it may not have even been directed at DeMar, but it definitely looked that way.
Lastly, I wanted to finish with some praise for the almost flawless Spurs. You’ll often hear that the best defensive basketball teams work like all of the players are connected on a string. There was a sequence of defensive possessions throughout the game where the Spurs demonstrated this better than any other team I have seen in person. To be honest, it was beautiful to watch as a basketball fan.
And yes, defence can be beautiful to watch. Let’s just hope we get first-hand experience of that in Toronto…in our lifetimes.
Raptors Player of the Game: DeMar DeRozan – 37 Min, 25 Pts, 10-18 FG, 5-7 FT, 4 Reb, 4 Ast
Spurs Player of the Game: DeJuan Blair – 36 Min, 28 Pts, 14-21 FG, 11 Reb, 1 Stl (Blair scored 14 of his 28 in the fourth quarter. He was his team’s most dominant player in their most dominant quarter)
Goat of the Game: Sonny Weems – 34 Min, 8 Pts, 4-9 FG, 1 Reb, 1 Ast, 2 Stl, 3 TO (How Sonny got 34 minutes tonight is truly a mind-boggling question. For the record, Julian Wright played less than a minute)