The Spurs couldn't get their fifth win in a row in Toronto. They came out lethargic and trailed the entire game, never looking like the defensive juggernaut they have been this season. A late push got them a chance to win it but some poor decision-making prevented them from completing the comeback. Manu Ginobili led the Spurs in scoring with 17 while DeMar DeRozan had 28 for the Raptors.
The first half shouldn't have been close. Kawhi Leonard was clearly not fully healthy after coming down with food poisoning in Philadelphia, the starters were a mess and the team kept coughing up the ball. The Spurs' 11 turnovers resulted in 18 points for the Raptors while Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan punished a defense that didn't look anything like the league-leading meat-grinder that it has been so far.
The bench first stopped the bleeding when Toronto got an 11-point lead in the first quarter, with an aggressive Boris Diaw leading the way. The starters got the Spurs back into the same hole but at least prevented the deficit from getting out of hand. The Raptors were only up seven after two quarters of thoroughly outplaying the Spurs, which were lucky to still be in the game at the break.
The Spurs' offense continued to struggle in the second half, logging a 16-point third quarter. Toronto wasn't much better as a team, turning the ball over seven times in the frame. Solid individual performances from DeRozan, Scola and Joseph as well as an uneven effort by San Antonio allowed them to stretch the lead to 11 once again going into the fourth quarter.
Gregg Popovich was seemingly ready to throw in the towel when he started the final frame with a Patty Mills, Jonathon Simmons, Kyle Anderson, Boris Diaw and David West unit. No one would have blamed him, considering how bad the Spurs had looked up until then. It seemed to be just one of those night in which no one has it going. Yet Leonard came alive, Ginobili continued to look sharp and a Spurs' small-ball lineup featuring Aldridge as the only big men made a game out of it.
A three-pointer by Danny Green reduced the deficit to three with a little under three minutes to go. The teams traded buckets and turnovers until Toronto was still up three with 28 seconds left. Kyle Lowry ran down the clock and threw a floater that missed, but DeRozan was all alone to corral the rebound after Ginobili helped on the drive. The Spurs couldn't even force free throws and lost the game.
Once again the little things cost the Spurs a road win.
Kawhi Leonard was a ghost for the first three quarters. He was clearly not in great shape yet and the Spurs missed him. Not only did they get killed by DeRozan but they also needed another perimeter scorer to alleviate Manu Ginobili's burden. Kawhi should be fine for the next one but Wednesday's game is a reminder of how important he is for the team.
- Speaking of Manu, he was the only one who showed up from the start against Toronto. Manu always senses what the team needs an this time it was scoring, so he drove to the rim for buckets. Unfortunately his shot was off, as he went 1-for-6 for the night, including two bad misses late in the game. It was still a great performance by Ginobili, who continues to have a good season.
The starters were really struggling early and the Raptors went small, forcing the Spurs to match with Aldridge as the sole big man. That's why, fortunately, Tim Duncan played just 20 minutes. If the Spurs are going to lose, at least Tim should get some rest.
- Parker and Green were outplayed by Lowry and DeRozan. Both have been markedly better at home than on the road so it wasn't exactly surprising. The Spurs will need them to be more consistent going forward or could seriously struggle against quality backcourts.
This was the perfect game for a LaMarcus Aldridge takeover but it didn't happen. To be fair to him, he only took 10 shots. In games like Wednesday, the Spurs need to get him the ball more often. If it means left block post ups, so be it. Aldridge was a beast for Portland last season on offense. The Spurs have to remember that and use him more, especially late in close games.
- I typically don't mention officiating -- and this is a very minor quibble but David West -- has been getting called for a lot of ticky tack fouls all season long. Whether it's going for rebounds or setting screens, he's not getting the benefit of the doubt. Granted, a lot of times he does foul but he has been that physical all of his career. Maybe now that's he's a bench player officials are less inclined to let that contact go and he will have to adjust.
- With Patty Mills slumping (42 percent from the field, 29 percent on threes on the last five games) the Spurs have been lucky to find some solid contributions from Simmons and Anderson. Neither seems like a guy who could play 15 minutes in the playoffs but they can sop up minutes in the regular season and that's valuable.
- Tony Parker was talking to Cory Joseph before the game and it looked like Pop was joking with him when he was near the Spurs' bench. I don't think he reached George Hill levels of love within the organization, but he's clearly liked and respected. For what it's worth, I miss him, even if I wasn't his biggest fan.
- Ah, Luis Scola. You will forever be the one that got away. Why must you torture us with a 16-point, eight-rebound performance at age 35? There's a universe in which Scola joins the Spurs at the height of his powers and I often wish I could live there, no matter how great things are in this one.
The Spurs will face the Lakers on Friday in Kobe's last visit to San Antonio. It should be an easy win but Los Angeles has quick guards, so it will be interesting to see if the Spurs' defense can contain them.
For the opponent's perspective, visit Raptors HQ