The San Antonio Spurs will be on the court for the first time since falling to the Pacers on Saturday when they travel to Toronto to take on the Raptors tonight. Losing to a team as good as the Pacers in the regular season is no big deal for a San Antonio team more focused on seeding and staying ready for the playoffs than winning any regular season bragging rights.
The Spurs have been there and done that enough times to know the drill. Starting with the Raptors game, San Antonio has a four-game stretch against teams without winning records. The Toronto game will also start a run of four games in five days for the Spurs, which includes Milwaukee on the second half of a back-to-back before getting a break on Thursday to begin a back-to-back against the Timberwolves and Jazz. The Spurs don't face a team with a winning-record until traveling to face the Clippers on Monday.
The Raptors are 7-12 this season, but that record flies out the window as Toronto just completed a seven-player trade with the Sacramento that shipped Rudy Gay, Aaron Gray, and Quincy Acy to the Kings in exchange for John Salmons, Patrick Patterson, Chuck Hayes, and Greivis Vasquez. The move wasn't made to improve the current product on the court for the Raptors, but it will clear cap room down the line and provide Toronto with the flexibility needed to rebuild and improve.
The absence of Rudy Gay leaves a big void in a Raptors offense that wasn't very intimidating to begin with. DeMar DeRozan has led the team with 21.6 points per game, but Gay was next on the team with just under 20 a game. The next highest scoring player on the roster for Toronto is point guard Kyle Lowry with 14.8 points per game. Outside of that, only Amir Johnson is averaging over 10 points per game for the Raptors.
As the four new Raptors learn the system and their roles, look for Kyle Lowry to start taking over more on offense. Toronto is averaging fewer assists than just about anyone in the league, but Lowry averages nearly seven a game. He'll need to create and score for this team to have any type of success because DeRozan is already close to tapping out his maximum scoring potential.
Guys like Johnson, Jonas Valanciunas, Terrence Ross, and Tyler Hansbrough are all decent defenders and tough players, but they're not the type of players a coach can run an offense through. That leaves Toronto playing one-on-one, isolation style basketball for large stretches, and against a team like the Spurs, there is no chance for that to work for 48 minutes, especially while trying to break in a new lineup.
This is the perfect game for San Antonio on the first half of the back-to-back, and a large lead early would help San Antonio rest some players for the grueling week of work ahead.
Matchup to watch: This one really comes down to San Antonio being focused. There isn't a position on the floor where the Raptors have the advantage, so this one comes down to the Spurs making it to the arena and not taking a day off.
Raptors perspective can be found here: Raptors HQ
Game Prediction: Spurs by 19.
As always Tony must dominate Fisher, and NBA league pass is recommended for those who are willing to pony up the cash. Almost every Spurs game will be broadcast there, which is especially helpful for those of us who aren't in the San Antonio area. Please don't post links to illegal game feeds in the game thread. Links to illegal feeds are not permitted on SBNation, but you can probably find them out there on the internets if you're resourceful and desperate.
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