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Shorthanded Spurs can’t handle the pesky Raptors in blowout loss

The shorthanded Spurs had no offense and no answer for the Raptors fast break attack.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at San Antonio Spurs Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

The Spurs have been on something of a magical streak to open the season, going 5-1 since opening night, but they learned their limits as the injuries finally piled too high for them to overcome a long, athletic, pesky Toronto Raptors squad. Down their top two scorers in Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell (not to mention Isaiah Roby and Blake Wesley), Keita Bates-Diop and Romeo Langford started in their place and had their moments, but the Spurs just didn’t have the offensive fire power or discipline on either end to keep up on the way to a massive blowout loss, 143-100.

Clearly missing Johnson’s energy and leadership, the Spurs looked lifeless to start the game as the Raptors raced out to a 9-0 lead on two fast breaks, an open three, and two free throws, forcing a Gregg Popovich timeout just two minutes into the game. Some shots finally started falling for the Spurs, and once they were able to get some stops, they went on a 10-0 run fueled by threes from Langford and Doug McDermott to get back within one, 19-18. With the Spurs finally finding some life on offense, the two teams traded buckets the rest of the way, and the Raptors led 32-31 after the first quarter. Unfortunately, that would be the end of the good vibes for the night.

The Spurs briefly got their first lead of the game on a Poeltl layup to open the second quarter, but from there they were all out of sorts again. The Raptors continued to feast off the Spurs’ miscues to get out and thrive on the fast break, and the Spurs couldn’t get many shots to fall without any flow to the offense — although when there was flow they did score, as evident by their 15 assists on 20 made field goals — taking a 15-point deficit into halftime, 64-49.

Zach Collins started the second half in place of Jeremy Sochan after he remained in the locker room at halftime, but the added length didn’t yield any better results against the Raptors and their swarming defense. The Spurs still couldn’t buy much on offense or take care of the ball, and the second half started the same way the game did: with the Raptors living in the fast break, both off lazy passes and even made baskets, and hitting their threes. It was a complete blowout by midway through the third quarter, and the Spurs took a 104-70 deficit into a fourth quarter that was nothing but extended garbage time on the way to the 43-point loss.

Game Notes

  • After missing Sunday’s game with flu-like symptoms, Sochan returned to the starting line-up, but after 10 minutes of playing time and not looking at all like his energetic self, he did not return from the locker room after halftime. Hopefully he, Johnson and Vassell are ready to go again by Friday. The Spurs finally learned what their limits are tonight, and while they were surprising surviving without Vassell, this game showed they can’t go without both, especially against a more talented team.
  • A big reason the Spurs got down big early to start the game was the Raptors had a 12-5 advantage in fast break points in the first quarter. The way the Spurs overcame that deficit was they had an 18-3 advantage in points off bench in the quarter, but that ended up being their only good offensive stretch of the game. The Raptors finished the game with 39 fast break points to just 12 for the Spurs, which leads to an interesting stat. It sure didn’t feel like it from watching, but both teams actually hit the same number of threes (14): not something you’d expect in such a huge blowout, which again shows how easy Toronto had it everywhere else.
  • In a “why the heck not” attempt to keep the deficit from getting too out of hand before halftime, Pop challenged an obvious McDermott charge with 42 second left in the second quarter, perhaps on a prayer it would get changed to a potential three-point play and 12-point deficit instead of 15. It was unsuccessful as expected, which got me to thinking, has Pop ever successfully challenged a play that mattered? His timing and decision making on challenges has often been a source of consternation for fans who have the advantage of a TV screen and instant replay. (For the record, this one did not matter.)
  • Bruce Bowen was a joy to listen to as the guest commentator during a second quarter that otherwise was not fun to watch, but it seems like an opportunity was missed by not scheduling him for Friday...

Play of the Game

In a game that didn’t feature much of the ball movement that has made the Spurs more dangerous than expected this season, this play from early in the second quarter when it was still a close game was one of the few bright spots for the offense tonight.

Up next: vs. Los Angeles Clippers on Friday

The Kawhi Leonard-less Clippers will be coming to San Antonio as the Spurs finish up their four-game homestand on Friday. Hopefully the Spurs will have some players back, because even without Kawhi, the Clippers still have Paul George and a rejuvenated John Wall to deal with.