Toronto Raptors: Previewing key matchups in shortest month of the year

(Photo by Anatoliy Cherkasov/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
(Photo by Anatoliy Cherkasov/NurPhoto via Getty Images) /
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(Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Feb. 22- San Antonio Spurs at Toronto Raptors

Key Matchup: Kawhi Leonard vs. DeMar DeRozan

In the battle of trade entities, DeMar DeRozan and the San Antonio Spurs took the first bout by double digits.

The game served as a return to their former home for both Leonard and Green, with hugs from Gregg Popovich to boot. In the latest iteration, it’s DeRozan’s opportunity to return to his former team of which he spent all of his nine seasons prior to this year.

In the two team’s first meetings, Lowry was out due to injury. Without their facilitator, the Raptors were smoked at home as they were doubled up in the first stanza  (38-19).

For the Spurs, their three-point shooting played a pivotal role with a 48.1-percent clip from outside buoying their offensive efforts. On the year, the Raptors have suffocated teams from outside to the tune of 34.3 percent, good for sixth in the league.

With their season-long figures taken into account, the shooting from the Spurs in the team’s first matchup figures to be anomalous.

This time around, with their three-point spree likely subsiding, the onus will be placed on DeRozan to shoulder the scoring load, much the way he has all year (team-leading 21.4 points per game).

Back in what he thought would be his first and destination, the motivation will be high for the former Raptors’ star.

Pegged as the primary defender on DeRozan will likely be Leonard. The two also figure to be adversaries when Leonard is tasked with scoring.

In the first matchup, the two tied at 21 points apiece. With Lowry likely back, the two’s scoring margin will likely be a deciding factor.