The Toronto Raptors could not have picked a worse opponent to face for their first post-Rudy Gay and -road trip game. The San Antonio Spurs have been arguably the best franchise in sports over the past 15 years, a tribute to great scouting and coaching.
The Raps were able to jump out to a big lead in Q1, as Amir Johnson showed his massive game against the Lakers was not a fluke. He received passes for easy buckets from Kyle Lowry, which you’d expect, and DeMar DeRozan (more of that, please). The joy was short-lived. San Antonio didn’t get to 15 wins against 4 losses this season by folding early. Once the time came to give the starters a blow, San Antonio’s second unit steamrolled our short bench (the new Raps weren’t eligible to play). Steve Novak, Dwight Buycks et al were willing, but completely unable, to slow down ageless Manu Ginobili, outside gunner Patty Mills, and ex-Rap Marco Bellinelli. San Antonio should be renamed the Internationals, in honour of the number of non-US players on their roster (including Canadian guard Cory Joseph, who played some respectable minutes in garbage time). Youthful Australian centre Aron Baynes, just back from the D-League, looked like a 5-year pro, scoring 14 points and grabbing 6 boards in 20+ minutes of eye-opening play. He contributed to the Spurs’ bench oustcoring the Raps’ 61-26.
When the Spurs starters, including luminaries like Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, returned for Q3, they hammered our guys. A manageable deficit become outsized in short order, and the fourth quarter was redundant.
The Raps started Terrence Ross, who continued to have difficulty making shots inside 15 feet. While I’m glad to see him more aggressively dribbling into the paint, my happiness would increase dramatically if he’d actually make a few of the runners he attempts. He was 4 of 7 from 3-point range, but had 5 turnovers. Did he pick up some bad habits from Rudy? I shudder to think.
There’s little value in reading this game as an intimation of disaster. The first game back from a road trip is frequently a trap, the Spurs are fabulous (how this for balanced offense – their high scorer, Ginobili had 16, yet they piled up 116 as a team; every player save Matt Bonner hit the scoresheet), we had no bench to speak of. The Raps dressed only 10 players; Austin Daye, who’s been nailed to the pine, played 14+ ineffectual minutes.
Once our four new guys pass their physicals and get some practice time under their belts, we might look like a pro team again. The first opportunity to see the revamped Raps occurs on Friday, when the Philadelphia 76ers are in town.
Brian Boake is Senior Editor for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.
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