Well, a week after a series of crushing defeats, the San Antonio Spurs are building up another winning streak. With most of their contributing players recovered from injury, the Spurs appear to be putting it back together.
And while a win over a gutted Orlando team is hardly going to move needle, the win against Dallas was a notable one, with the Spurs perimeter giving Luka Doncic about as much trouble as could be given, and in spite of the injury-prone Kristaps Porziņģis going for thirty-one points and fifteen rebounds.
This next match-up would normally offer more of a challenge than Orlando did, but the Raptors have been scuffling since their trade of Norman Powell. Certainly injuries, Covid-19, and suspensions have conspired in this recent slide, but there are almost always consequences to trading a player averaging 19 points per game, and though it may benefit Toronto in the long run, it seems like it may have hurt them in the short term.
In addition to that now gaping hole, it seems that the Raptors will also be without the services of Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet, as well as three of their other guards. And with their back-court basically running out of players, I’d expect San Antonio to penetrate their perimeter defense with ease even if they didn’t employ the services of Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Patty Mills, and Lonnie Walker.
It’s rare these days that I run with an outright prediction, having had my expectations so frequently thwarted as of late, but San Antonio should take this one handily. (By a margin of, say, 17 points?) Of course, that means that I’ve now doomed us all, so in the event that the Spurs should lose tonight, please send all your hate mail to my editor.
San Antonio Spurs @ Toronto Raptors
April 14, 2021 | 7:00 PM CT
Watch: FSSW & NBATV | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
Spurs Injuries: Trey Lyles - Out (ankle), Gorgui Dieng - Out (Shoulder)
Raptors Injuries: Kyle Lowry- Out (Rest), Fred VanVleet - Out (Hip), DeAndre Bembry - Out (Hamstring), Paul Watson - Out (Covid-19 Protocols), Jalen Harris - Out (Hip)
What to watch for:
- The Rise of a New Bench King: The Spurs have long been famous for the production they get out of their bench, and especially for the usage of 6th men who also run with the starting lineup. This is in no small part due to their ability to develop the next bench standout under the tutelage of high-usage 6th men. Before Manu Ginobili, it was a role filled by the über high-energy Malik Rose, and since Manu’s retirement it’s been Patty Mills who’s held it down with aplomb. But it this season it appears that a new player is preparing to pick up the mantle: the athletic wunderkind Lonnie Walker IV. Though Mills and Gay still have the scoring chops to keep the second unit afloat, the combination of compressed scheduling and age appear to be robbing them of their ability to contribute evenly on a nightly basis. And while Walker can sometimes be bafflingly inconsistent (not unlike another 6th man in his youth), his injury-related absence coinciding with San Antonio’s worst losing streak of the season was no coincidence, particularly in a pair of overtime losses that the Spurs needed just a little more scoring in. At face value his scoring average (11.5) doesn’t seem particularly impressive, but per 36 minutes that translates to 16.2, just a hair off of Ginobili’s per 36 in his 2nd season in San Antonio (You know, the year before he went Supernova on the Pistons). I’m not here to say that Walker’s the next Ginobili (For one thing, his creation is nowhere near where Manu’s was at this point), but his ability to be used as high-energy scoring punch for both units feels like a familiar narrative playing out in front of us again. And with Patty Mills and Rudy Gay turning 33 and 35 by the start of the Fall, I have feeling that it won’t be long until we’re all chanting ‘The King is dead, long live the King.’
- The DeMar DeRozan ‘miss me?’ Tour: Since he was traded from Toronto, DeRozan seems to have made it his personal mission to show out every time he plays them. And while one could certainly argue that Toronto’s NBA title definitively ‘won the breakup’, it’s gotta be hard for Toronto fans not to feel that lump in their throats when their ex is out there looking so fine. In DeMar’s last five outings against the Raptors, he’s averaging 22 points, 7.4 rebounds, 7.6 assists, and 1.6 steals on 53.3% shooting. I don’t know about y’all, but I’d tune in to see a guaranteed performance of that level any day of the week.
For the Raptors’ fans’ perspective, visit Raptors HQ.
PtR’s Game thread 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.