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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs at Toronto Raptors

Weighed down by injury, it’s time for the Spurs to put the load on the their shoulders.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Although road woes have persisted for the Silver & Black, Wednesday night offered a little relief in a tight win in Brooklyn. Without Kawhi Leonard, Manu Ginobili, and Rudy Gay, the Spurs called on LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, and Patty Mills to serve as the Big 3 for the night combining for 72 points.

Tonight, the Spurs play a Toronto Raptors who lost two in a row after pummeling the Cleveland Cavaliers just 8 days ago. One of those losses was by two to the Warriors and should be taken with a grain of salt. They also experienced a little redemption by taking a W over the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday and now look to maintain their excellent home record, 2nd only to The Spurs.

But tonight the the Spurs aren’t in their comfort zone at the AT&T Center, so they’ll need to reach deep and push through to get a much needed road win against a competitive team.

San Antonio Spurs (30-16) vs. Toronto Raptors (30-13)

January 19, 2018 | 6:00 PM CT

Watch: FSSW, Listen: WOAI

Spurs injuries: Rudy Gay (right heel bursitis), Kawhi Leonard (quadriceps) out indefinitely, Manu Ginobili (right thigh contusion).

Raptors injuries: Fred VanVleet (knee) considered day to day.

Hey Hey My My…

The San Antonio Spurs have been called old since they swept the Cavaliers in the 2007 Finals. They were expected to fall after the retirement of Tim Duncan. And all season long folks have been waiting for the other shoe to drop without their two past Finals MVPs. Writing the Spurs off between New Year’s Day and All-Star Weekend has become tradition. And still, the Spurs sport the 5th best record in the NBA. There’s more to the picture than meets the eye.

And yet, this feels like one of those games the Spurs need to use to remind themselves that they are contenders. Dropping a game to the Lakers or Hawks will pass for a blip in The System, but not showing up for a team with almost an identical record will leave many wondering if now is time to hit the panic button. With the announcement Wednesday that The Klaw is out indefinitely, the button feels more inevitable than it did after he played at home against Denver.

Expect Tony to take over with his patented floater while he sets up LaMarcus Aldridge in the low block. With Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan in the backcourt, the Spurs would most benefit from Danny Green’s availability on defense and sharpshooting on offense.

I always worry when Pau Gasol is going to face a heavy-duty center, but Jonas Valanciunas only outweighs Gasol by 15 pounds. It’s the 12 years of youth that are more disconcerting. That said, I would expect Valanciunas to do more damage than his 11.1 ppg implies. He’s nearing 8 rebounds and that’s where Gasol may lose and where a few minutes from Joffrey Lauvergne banging around might benefit the Spaniard’s longevity.

The real match-up to watch is Serge Ibaka and LaMarcus Aldridge. LMA has 2” and 25 lbs. on Ibaka, but Ibaka is a menace in the paint and has matching athleticism.

Tom Sawyer

At this point last year Bleacher Report determined that the San Antonio Spurs had the best bench in the NBA. The Toronto Raptors were 3rd on that list. Both have made significant changes since then (Dewayne Dedmon to the Atlanta Hawks, David Lee to obscurity, Cory Joseph to the Indiana Pacers), but the philosophy is still the same.

Two months ago The Score ranked the Raptors fifth to the Spurs 4th. The silver lining to both squads injuries have been the accelerated learning for the end of their respective benches. Dejounte Murray has benefited from Parker’s rehab, Bryn Forbes has come into his own on account of Danny Green’s groin, and Davis Bertans has been decorating his own coming out party while Rudy Gay has been sidelined with right heel bursitis. Watching the Spurs bench changing throughout the season can keep one hopeful, yet discontent. The changes aren’t permanent, but change is.

In the same way, “Toronto’s bench players rank second in the NBA with a combined 55.3 effective field-goal percentage.” On January 11th, the Raptors hosted the Cleveland Cavaliers without starters Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka and smothered the Cavs. Fred VanVleet led the Raptors with 22 points going 6 of 8 from 3-point land (think Davis Bertans) while Pasal Siakam shot 70% and a perfect 7 of 7 within the arc. Add to that Normal Powell’s 14 points and Jakob Poeltl’s 12 with3 blocks, and the Raptors bench power can being to be assessed. Keeping in mind the Raptors C. J. Miles is a strong comparison to our Patty Mills coming off the bench as a 3-point specialist and it becomes apparent these two teams might just be fairly matched on multiple levels when fully stocked.

Fight the Good Fight

With the news that Kawhi is out indefinitely added to Rudy Gay’s recovery taking longer than anticipated, the Spurs have lost their MVP candidate and their 2nd best scorer. Monday night, the Spurs lost the Grandpa Juice to his first big injury of the season. A lot of voices out these sound hopeless and discontent. This one is for y’all:

Vegas Line: Toronto by 6.

Game Prediction: Spurs by 1. Yep, I’m calling it- a comeback with all the fireworks.

For the Raptor’s fan’s perspective, visit: Raptors HQ.

As always Tony must dominate Fisher.

PtR’s Gamethread will be up this evening for those who want to chat through the game. You can also follow along with the action through PtR’s Twitter feed.