The Spurs’ final sprint to the playoffs started tonight with a road game against a Raptors team that’s second in the East, and has a couple of guys who were Spurs this time last year. Toronto was determined to keep the ball out of LaMarcus Aldridge’s hands, bringing double teams whenever he touched the ball. But everyone else stepped up and the good guys had a two point lead with less than a minute to go. But it wasn’t to be as the Raps closed the game out with some excellent defense and won by three.
- Despite the 1-4 start this month, the Spurs have won a staggering 67% (91-45) of their Rodeo Road trip games in franchise history.
- DeMar DeRozan’s warm reception from Raptors’ fans extended beyond half a minute and he seemed to happily smile in response. The crowd cheered for him whenever he had the ball in the first several minutes of action. Additionally, the team played a two minute tribute video for DeRozan during the first timeout and DeMar came onto the court to acknowledge the gesture.
- Derrick White, on a minutes restriction, started the game defending Kawhi Leonard, while Bryn Forbes was assigned to Kyle Lowry. Leonard committed a turnover on his first drive with an errant pass that White stole.
- In an early sequence showing how valuable point guard play can be, Kyle Lowry missed his third 3-pointer in a row, after the Raptors had used solid ball movement to score early and often, while White found LaMarcus Aldridge with a nifty pass in traffic for a layup to trim the lead to two.
- Late in the first, Jakob Poeltl paired two blocks on Jeremy Lin shots with an offensive rebound in a pack of Raptors. San Antonio uncharacteristically committed seven turnovers and combined with Toronto’s solid shooting from distance trailed at the end of one, 23-26.
- Marc Gasol, the other Raptor trade deadline acquisition, asserted himself by being very physical with the Spurs bigs, while acting as a facilitator for his teammates on offense.
- The Spurs went on a 10-0 run in the second period to lead 37-33 behind the shooting of Davis Bertans and Marco Belinelli, to go with good perimeter defense on the Raptor shooters. In today’s pace-and-space league, Belinelli somehow managed to have traveling called on him twice.
- Doris Burke, after Rudy Gay blocked a Leonard drive at the rim, replied in her understated way that “they understand the nuances of Kawhi Leonard’s game.” Patty Mills spent a good portion of the second quarter trying to stay in front of Leonard and pestered Leonard into 2-13 shooting. In the meantime, former Spurs Danny Green started the half shooting well from three (4 for 5) with a variety of open looks from each corner.
- The Spurs combined heady guard play from Mills and Belinelli, who spearheaded consistent shooting from the bench, and despite Toronto shooting 12-for-22 from 3-point land, to take a slim 56-55 lead into the half.
- Early in the third period, Pascal Siakam went on his own seven point run by showing off his burgeoning offensive prowess on a athletic baseline and-1, followed by an even more athletic Eurostep drive for another layup. This came as part of a 11-2 run by Toronto to regain the lead.
- Serge Ibaka picked up his third foul midway into the quarter, which resulted in a Gasol substitution. The Spurs immediately put him into a pick and roll situation for a score. Gasol then responded with finding Green for yet another open three. Leonard noticeably appears to have picked up the superstar ability of screaming really loud every time he’s contacted in order to bring it to the attention of the referees.
- After a Belinelli conversion on Green that put the Spurs up 81-80, which coincided with Raptor coach Nick Nurse being tossed for technicals, Burke commented “the Spurs are a team that needs ALL of its players in order to win.” We all couldn’t agree more.
- San Antonio attempted ‘floppy’ late in the third with Poeltl as facilitator, in which every part of the play was botched. Yet they still picked up two points from Mills on sheer hustle and determination. The Spurs rode their bench execution to a 91-88 lead entering the fourth.
- There may come a time in the far future, while reminiscing on White’s Spursiest move, and Devon Birdsong may conclude that it is Derrick’s ability to gain separation from his defender by properly using a pick and methodically attacking the defense.
- Serge Ibaka and Lin contributed two baskets as part of a 9-0 run by Toronto to put them up six. Lin persistently probed the Spurs defense to success often. San Antonio countered with timely shooting from Belinelli to pull the Spurs within one. Leonard and Aldridge then traded signature baskets before Kawhi dropped in a LaMarcus-like fadeaway to extend the Raptors lead.
- In a scintillating back-and-forth final minutes, Siakam put Toronto ahead by one with a tip-in, while Belinelli took a DeRozan kickout for a wide open three. Ibaka made one of two free throws going. In the ensuing possession, DeMar was ambushed at midcourt and Leonard clawed for the steal and picked up an uncontested dunk.
- Bertans took a surprise feed from DeRozan and missed a fadeaway baseline jumper. Lowry appeared to not have established position inbounds before getting the carom. However, the replay officials determined otherwise and Toronto retained possession. Leonard closed out scoring with free throws.
- In light of Canada’s ongoing love affair with its only NBA franchise, it is good for Spurs fans, blessed by the franchise’s stability and accomplishments, to remember that a handful of former Raptors have broken fans’ hearts by bolting for subjectively better situations. Tracy McGrady left cousin Vince Carter in 2000 for the Orlando Magic to moderate success. Carter later exited in 2004 amid concerns about his effort and commitment and joined a New Jersey Nets team that never made it far in the playoffs. Chris Bosh also left the Raptors in 2010 to join LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in Miami. Toronto may now find itself needing to fit the proverbial superstar ‘slipper’ on Kawhi Leonard this summer.
The Spurs conclude the Road Road Trip with #almostfullsquad in the Big Apple with games Sunday night at 6:30 PM CDT with Dennis Smith Jr. and the New York Knicks followed by the final road SEGABABA of the year with D’Angelo Russell’s Brooklyn Nets Monday at 6:30 PM CDT.