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Spurs get blown out by the Raptors as the defense continues to struggle

The Spurs dropped their fourth straight contest on Tuesday night by giving up 110+ points for the fourth consecutive game.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Toronto Raptors John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Following a disappointing overtime loss to the lowly Detroit Pistons, the Spurs looked to get back in the win column when they faced the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday night. Unfortunately, San Antonio’s defense faltered again, resulting in the good guys losing their fourth straight contest by a score of 129-104.

With Dejounte Murray still out even after clearing health and safety protocols, the Spurs needed other players to pick up the scoring slack. Devin Vassell answered the call early by hitting back-to-back threes right after tipoff, and the good guys led for much of the opening frame. Toronto soon recovered by taking advantage of their size, as the Raptors bullied their way into the paint and converted on a number of second-chance opportunities.

On the other hand, San Antonio relied on their ball movement and off-ball cuts to generate easy looks around the rim. Unfortunately, the Spurs struggled to contain Pascal Siakam’s drives when he hunted mismatches that helped him draw numerous fouls. The Silver & Black overcorrected on defense by trying to pack the paint, which led to open shots from Fred VanVleet, who finished with a game-high 33 points. San Antonio’s lacklustre offense didn’t help either, as the team became stagnant and gave the ball away on a few possessions and went into half-time down by 15.

The Spurs looked poised to go on a run a couple of times in the third quarter, but the Raptors seemingly scored at will every time the good guys tried to build momentum. Jakob Poeltl managed to stem some of the bleeding by shoring up the paint and pulling down 12 rebounds, but San Antonio’s perimeter defense was an absolute mess. The team constantly got their assignments mixed up and conceded wide-open looks to players such as Justin Champagnie, who knocked down four shots from deep for the Raptors.

With the game all but over, Pop pulled the starters to give the reserves some run, and Joe Wieskamp was especially impressive by scoring 13 points in the final period. The bigger issue, however, was the Spurs’ defense, as they gave up at least 110 points for the fourth consecutive match and ultimately lost 129-104 in Toronto.

Game notes

  • The absence of Dejounte Murray has obviously been noticeable over the past few games, but it stood out in particular on Tuesday night at the end of quarters. Derrick White was tasked with isolating on the final possession of each of the first three periods, and two of those ended in turnovers. That’s not all on White of course, as the rest of the team looked lost too, but it just goes to show how vital Murray is when it comes to orchestrating the Spurs’ offense.
  • Josh Primo played his first game in his hometown tonight, and his excitement was obvious from the get-go. The 19-year-old logged a career-high 28 minutes and held his own, and the most impressive trait about Primo is that he doesn’t shy away from the moment. There were numerous times during the game when he attempted a bold play, and even though some of them didn’t pan out, it still goes to show how fearless the kid is.
  • Although Primo impressed on offense, the Raptors still took advantage of his size on defense. Siakam continually punished the young guard in the paint and scored at will, which begs the question: why didn’t San Antonio switch the matchups? Primo was probably the least adept at handling Siakam amongst every Spur on the court, and yet the team didn’t seem very interested in switching and often left Primo on an island.
  • Speaking of the defense, the Spurs have given up 114.7 points per 100 possession since their December 7th loss to the Knicks, according to Cleaning the Glass. The team is ranked 23rd in defense over that span, and they were a robust 11th before then. Something needs to change for San Antonio to get back in the win column, and they can’t just rely on Murray to save the day.

Play of the game

There weren’t many great moments to choose from this game, but Jakob did thread a nice pass to Vassell for an easy dunk.

SVP Awards

3rd place (1 point) - Josh Primo | 15 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks

What a night for the hometown kid! Primo certainly gave his family and friends something to cheer for by not only playing a career-high 28 minutes, but also scoring a career-high 15 points too. His shooting and court vision were on full display and he even attempted a dunk that definitely would’ve been the highlight of the game had it gone down.

2nd place (2 points) - Devin Vassell | 15 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 3/7 from deep.

Vassell started out hot by hitting back-to-back threes and finished the first quarter with 11 points. He cooled off for the rest of the game but it’s evident that the sophomore guard is ready to take on a bigger offensive load. Vassell’s off-the-dribble game continues to improve and his playmaking chops are starting to come around as well.

1st place (3 points) - Jakob Poeltl | 19 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists, 9/13 shooting

Unsurprisingly, the Raptors' offense really took off in the second quarter when Poeltl was on the bench. The big man helped San Antonio somewhat get back on track after subbing back in by protecting the paint, and it was the Spurs’ perimeter defense that really let the team down. Poeltl’s passing was also on full display, as is evident from the clip above, but he’s still a massive liability at the line, as he made just 1/5 free throws on Tuesday night.

Overall Leaderboard

1st - Dejounte Murray - 49pts

2nd - Derrick White - 40pts

3rd - Devin Vassell - 25pts

4th - Jakob Poeltl - 24pts

5th - Keldon Johnson - 23pts

6th - Lonnie Walker IV - 13pts

7th - Bryn Forbes - 11pts

8th - Thaddeus Young & Doug McDermott - 9pts

9th - Keita Bates-Diop - 5pts

10th - Jock Landale - 3pts

11th - Drew Eubanks and Josh Primo - 2pts

12th - Tre Jones - 1pt

Next game: at Boston on Wednesday

The San Antonio Spurs will play the second leg of a back-to-back on Wednesday when they face the Celtics as they try and get their first win of 2022.