Raptors 97 – San Antonio Spurs 94: Subduing a monster


The Raptors kept the Spurs at bay all game, bent but didn’t break in Q4, and nailed down a huge win.

The Toronto Raptors tried playing the right way, and discovered the benefits of so doing. Instead of another plodding first quarter, the Raptors seized the lead and never surrendered it. Despite huge pressure down the stretch from the NBA’s second best team, Toronto got baskets when they needed them, and hung on.

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Can a game be won in its opening minutes? The Raptors surprised the San Antonio Spurs by getting buckets from the slumping Luis Scola. Legendary Spurs coach Greg Popovich displayed his characteristic grouchiness by pulling his starters after what he deemed a less than energetic start. The Spurs’ second unit could probably qualify for a playoff berth themselves, and kept the visitors close. San Antonio displayed its usual quick ball movement and frequent appearances at the hoop as the ball arrives, and climbed back into the match after being down 11. They recorded assists on 14 of their 19 field goals, a ratio the Raptors can only dream of.

The Raptors didn’t fold under the pressure of the Spurs precision hoops. DeMar DeRozan was happy to take fadeaway jumpers over the Spurs big men, and had 16 points by the buzzer. Kyle Lowry shrugged off getting a finger in the eye by Danny Green (why was no foul called?) and scored 10, including a crazy one at the arc with Green draped all over him.

Dec 9, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (7) controls the ball against San Antonio Spurs guard Danny Green (14) at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated San Antonio 97-94. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto was full value for its 7-point halftime lead, with Scola and DeRozan leading the parade. San Antonio, normally a devastating team from beyond the 3-point arc, was a mere 3 of 12.

The Spurs’ shooting woes continued in Q3, when they shot just 25%. Their defense kept them in the game, as the Raptors committed six turnovers. When Toronto did get shots up, they were accurate. Only 13 shots were needed for 8 field goals.

San Antonio found its touch in Q4. Kawhi Leonard has been ill, but found enough energy to score all nine of his points. The Spurs matched the Raptors in playing small (Tim Duncan sat the entire quarter) and made every Toronto possession difficult. DeRozan showed big here, scoring several buckets surrounded by Spurs and pulling down a huge offensive rebound with eight seconds left. He was fouled; on the in-bounds play, the Raptors threw the ball backwards and dribbled out for the W.

Coach Dwane Casey maintained a tight eight-man rotation, meaning even James Johnson got 15+ minutes of burn. Bismack Biyombo scored 10 points (a critical late-game slam dunk should have been waved off, as Biz had pitched a tent in the key) but was in foul difficulty, so Patrick Patterson needed to step up. His 10 points and defensive hustle were most welcome.

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Ultimately the Raptors backcourt starters won this game. DeRozan was efficient, needing only 15 shots to score 28 points. Lowry had 19, with 8 assists. Toronto took an absurdly low 64 shots, but made 37, and missed but 2 of 22 from the free throw line.

Can the Raptors build on this impressive win when the Milwaukee Bucks hit town tomorrow night? We can hope.