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What We Learned from the Spurs loss to the Raptors

The Spurs’ production waned badly in the fourth quarter, Tre Jones has some work to do, and I hate Ed Malloy.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at San Antonio Spurs Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

For one quarter, the Spurs looked like they really wanted to win this one for Gregg Popovich. After a slow offensive start for both teams, the Raptors took a five-point lead heading into the second quarter, and that was when the Spurs decided to pick things up. It was the only quarter they would win on the night, outscoring Toronto 32-24 to take a three-point lead into halftime. A lot of that centered around Dejounte Murray, Lonnie Walker and Keldon Johnson contributing 23 points in the quarter.

Unfortunately, outside of an 8-0 run by the Spurs early in the third quarter to take their largest lead of the game, they looked uninspired the rest of the way. The Raptors immediately responded with a 9-0 run and later a 14-4 run (most of which happened with Murray back in the locker room to stop a bleeding forehead) to put the Spurs in the worst possible scenario for them this season: down heading to in the fourth quarter — a situation in which they have yet to win a game this season. In fact, they are now 0-33, which is just crazy.

Still, I thought maybe this would be the game they would break the curse. A seven-point deficit is far from insurmountable, they had the added motivation to win it for Pop, and perhaps the biggest redeeming quality of this team is their never-quit attitude. Unfortunately, that wasn’t there last night. Maybe they are aware of that horrific streak and get shaken under the pressure of trying to bust it, or maybe they just weren’t ready for the Raptors to up their swarming defensive pressure to 10, but whatever the reason, the Spurs’ level of play got even worse than usual in the fourth quarter.

When they weren’t settling for iso-jumpers, they were moving the ball too much primarily because no one wanted to take the shot. They had a couple of uncharacteristic shot clock violations and just couldn’t hit the shots they did take. That never-quit attitude just didn’t seem to be there on this night, which made it a more disappointing loss that many. This was one of the few instances this season they looked completely overwhelmed and defeated in a game, especially against an okay-not-great opponent.

Sadly, on this night, it just felt like the Raptors wanted to NOT be the team Pop broke the record against more than the Spurs wanted it.


  • Tre Jones has come a long way in his second season. He is a pest on defense, a good enough ball-handler for a backup point guard, and his quick speed and ability to drive and finish in the paint throws opponents off guard. However, last night showed how far he needs to go in one particular area to truly be a reliable in NBA guard. A big reason the Spurs were overwhelmed by the Raptors swarming defense in the fourth quarter was they were able to sag off of Jones, who refused to take any outside shots the defense gave him. He eventually appeared flustered, would instantly pass the ball away, and wouldn’t even drive and at least try to suck in the defense to create open looks for others. Odds are at least developing a respectable three-point shot from the corner will be his biggest assignment from the Spurs this offseason.
  • Coming into this game, the Spurs were on a serious nine-game slump in terms of hitting wide-open threes (i.e. having six or more feet between the shooter and defender), having hit a third or less of them in every game. While I don’t have the exact stats for last night’s game, both the eye test and three-point shooting in general says the streak probably continued to ten games. They only hit 9-32 threes for 28%, and I can recall several wide open ones that were missed. The first step towards being a good three-point shooting team is to consistently hit the open ones, so they have a ways to go in that regard.
  • Ever since Joey Crawford left the league, Ed Malloy has been my least favorite referee (although sometimes Tony Brothers challenges him for the title). He just comes across as stuck up and full of himself, and if anyone dares to challenge him, they’ll be T-ed up in no time flat. Last night, he was pleasantly invisible for most of the game (with Dedric Taylor and Marat Kogut taking most of the flack for the bad calls). However, “Mean Ed” he showed up in one defining moment late in the third quarter, when the Spurs seemed to have a momentum-shifting play when a Josh Richardson block led to a Keldon Johnson dunk. Right after that, Malloy called a weak touch foul on Richardson out near the midcourt line and T-ed him up when he turned away and swung his arm in frustration. Even Pop could be seen telling him both calls were weak, and the Spurs weren’t the same the rest of the night. As an added bonus, I’ll always remember and hate Malloy for this (warning: bad finger language):
  • Finally, for silver lining seekers, there’s this: