The Toronto Raptors were trying to perform a miracle by beating two NBA powerhouses on the road on consecutive nights. While their effort against the San Antonio Spurs can’t be faulted, the home team was able to turn back several runs by the Raps, then produce one of their own to win going away. The Spurs have so many weapons. Their usual 3-point shooters were cold, so coach Gregg Popovich ran out some more guys until he found one, Danny Green, with a hot hand.
The first half was a dog fight, though it didn’t start that way. The Raps floundered badly in the first few minutes, with a slew of turnovers, including a phantom travelling call on Jonas Valanciunas from an out-of-her-depth official named Lauren Holtkamp. [20-second timeout: While I don't like harping about referees, and they didn't cost the Raps a victory, the entire crew in stripes had an off-night. DeMar DeRozan was called for a Technical after arguing a continuation that wasn't. He also was pounded while taking the ball to the hoop several times, with no whistle. San Antonio was mystified by a disallowed free throw and other calls.] The offense slowly bobbed to the surface, led by Kyle Lowry, who’s been superb on this road trip. He poured in 16 before intermission, outscoring the man who for my money has been the best point guard in the NBA for a decade, Tony Parker. While the Spurs weren’t shooting any great shakes from outside, they received excellent offensive rebounding from Brazilian power forward Tiago Splitter and others. Their putback buckets and fresh shot-clocks helped them score 30 in Q2, and take a 6-point lead.
Terrence Ross hasn’t lost his confidence despite some shaky shooting lately, and dribbled into open paint for short jumpers several times. DD, the object of considerable defensive attention, had to work hard for his 6 points. He was never able to get untracked, finishing with a disappointing 13.
The second half saw the Raps breathing down the Spurs’ neck, yet never able to seize the lead. Getting offensive rebounding help from Tyler Hansbrough helped Toronto stay even with San Antonio in the quarter. Q4 continued the pattern of the Raps hanging around, and when DD made a layup with 4 minutes to play, the deficit was back to that infuriating six. Unfortunately, it was then that last year’s playoff hero, Danny Green, hit the second of his four 3-pointers (without a miss). Five straight points from TRoss was the Raps’ last gasp, as the Spurs kept hitting from downtown. The game was closer than the score.
San Antonio received more ordinary excellence from Tony Parker, who ended with 26 points and 8 assists. Oddly, Tim Duncan had the same number of blocked shots (4) as baskets. Even in limited minutes he’s still an impact player, pulling down 12 boards.
For the Raps, Jonas Valanciunas was a rebound short of a double-double, as his development continues. TRoss tied with Kyle for team lead with 23 points, but was minus-18. I hope that’s an anomaly, as I thought he defended well enough.
The Raptors visit the New York Knicks on Friday night, before returning home (finally!) to play them again on Saturday.