Toronto and San Antonio are analogues of one another this year, bound by their A-list celebrity fans, tall pointy buildings, and success at playing styles that appear to resist the siren song of modern analytics. The Spurs and Raptors both prefer a slower pace, with offenses that can regularly create clean looks in the half court and players who love the two-ball.
They also both have the misfortune of being very good amid a hegemonic NBA landscape, with the Warriors and Cavs curbing their respective hopes of contending for a title. I don’t think that takes away from what either side is accomplishing, and, as far as undercard matchups go, you won’t get many better than this.
These Raptors are pretty similar last year’s, only better. Kyle Lowry and $139 million man DeMar DeRozan anchor an attack that just works, no matter who they’re sharing the floor with. DeRozan has found a way to be extremely effective despite lacking a three-point shot, while Lowry is having the best shooting season of his career (his eFG% is at 59.2%). Reserves like Cory Joseph, Patrick Patterson (questionable to play tonight) and Norm Powell provide solid depth and give Dwayne Casey versatility with his lineups.
Offensively, I like the way Pau Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge match up with Toronto’s bigs. Rookie Pascal Siakam has been fine stepping in at power forward, but he doesn’t have the size or experience to match up against Aldridge and could struggle in keeping him off the offensive glass. Jonas Valanciunas will likely get the Pau Gasol assignment and, with his footspeed, could be exploited by the Spurs’ pick-and-pop game. It wouldn’t hurt to turn to that early, as Pop did with Aldridge against Robin Lopez in the win against the Bulls a few weeks back.
San Antonio Spurs (27-7) vs Toronto Raptors (23-10)
Jan. 3, 2017 | 7:30 CST
Watch: FSSW; Listen: 1200 AM WOAI
Spurs injuries: Kawhi Leonard (gastroenteritis)
Raptors injuries: Patrick Patterson (knee), Jared Sullinger (foot), Delon Wright (shoulder)
Slowing down the Raps’ efficient attack
Toronto no longer owns the best offensive rating in NBA history, but they’re back to tops in the league after dropping 123 on LA on Sunday. They still seem due for some regression (especially with their three-point shooting), but there is an ease to how they score which can’t be denied. Lowry and Derozan are playing the best ball of their careers, and the team collectively makes very few mistakes (1st in the league with only 12 turnovers a game). When DeRozan sits and Lowry is joined by Joseph, Patterson, Terrence Ross and Lucas Nogueira (Toronto’s second-most-used lineup), the Raptors outscore opponents by 28.5 points per 100 possessions.
Low-volume, high-percentage three-point shooting
The Spurs are first in the league at three-point percentage but 28th in attempts per game. The Raptors are third in percentage and 23rd in attempts.
The Klaw returned to action against the Hawks on Sunday night, after missing two games with gastroenteritis, but was obviously not 100%. Leonard went 3-for-12 from the field in the loss to Atlanta. We’ll see how he looks with a few more days to recover.
Vegas line: Spurs by 5.5.
Game prediction: Spurs by 7.
For the Raptors fans perspective, visit Raptors HQ.
As always Tony must dominate Fisher.
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