At 25-40, it’s not exactly a stretch to say that the San Antonio Spurs have had some trouble building on wins thus far this season. However, after downing a LeBron-less Lakers team on Monday night, the Silver and Black have another golden chance to start up a win streak, humble though it might be.
The Toronto Raptors will be coming to town as the Spurs recover from the Rodeo Road Trip and enter a nice long home stretch. Though the Raptors beat the Spurs pretty soundly in their last match-up, it’s important to note that their victory came with both Lonnie Walker and (more importantly) Dejounte Murray in Covid protocols.
This time however, it will be Toronto’s turn to be without their best player, as their first-time All-Star Fred VanVleet looks to be questionable for this contest, and talented forward OG Ogunoby will be out with a finger injury.
Additionally, the Raptors have been a bit of a slide lately, going 3-7 in the last 10 games, and entering this one on a three game losing streak.
Statistically, the last three games paint a brutal picture for an Eastern Conference team doing their best to hang onto a playoff seed. The Raptors are dead last in points scored in that span, as well as 29th in field-goal percentage, 29th in the 3pt percentage, 28th in free-throw percentage, and 30th in true-shooting percentage. As such, it’s hardly surprisingly to find that both their offensive rating and net rating have been near the bottom of the league as well (27th each).
That being said, the Spurs advantage in this one isn’t exactly significant, with San Antonio hovering at (or just below) the middle in most of those categories in the same span of time, with the exception of points scored (tied for 1st) and field-goal percentage (5th).
The Spurs are themselves only 5-5 in that ten game stretch, and they’ve won only 12 games at home so far this season, making home-court advantage a bit of a wash at best. Add to that equation the Raptors’ playoff race urgency, and it wouldn’t be surprising if this ended up as a bit of a trap game for the Silver and Black.
Still, the Spurs will have something to play for too, as they endeavor to get their coach a momentous win (statistically speaking) in front of the home crowd, as well trying to hang on for a chance at the play-in. And of course, working to split the season series with the Great White North.
So don’t be surprised if the Spurs come out guns blazing in this one, for Gregg Popovich if nothing else. Once more unto the breach!
Toronto Raptors (34-30) at San Antonio Spurs (25-40)
March 8, 2022 | 7:30 PM CT
Watch: Bally Sports Southwest| Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
Spurs Injuries: Devin Vassell - Probable (Groin), Lonnie Walker IV - Probable (Illness), Keita Bates-Diop - Doubtful (Back)
Raptors Injuries: Fred VanVleet - Questionable (Knee), Malachi Flynn - Out (Hamstring), David Johnson - Questionable (Knee), OG Ogunoby - Out (Finger)
What to watch for:
- Lonnie Walker’s Hot Streak: Aside from the obvious appeal of watching to see if Pop will finally pass Don Nelson in the wins column, Lonnie Walker should be definite point of interest. Aside from a 5 point no-show in game before last (which now looks to have been illness-related), Lonnie’s been on quite a tear. I’m not sure that it would hyperbolic to say that Lonnie’s future with the team (and certainly his off-season market) might be determined by how he closes out the season. And I for one, am rooting for him to continue torching defenses on a nightly basis. If he’s healthy, this seems like a great time to get right back to it.
- John Richardson’s Playing Time: Ever since the Spurs acquired Richardson from Boston, I’ve been wondering if they might have done so as a form of Lonnie Walker insurance. I suspect that should Walker get a ridiculous offer in restricted free-agency and leave, or the Spurs decline to sign him for under-performing (only with Lonnie could it realistically go either way), Richardson might slot nicely into the sixth-man role that they’ve been trying to prepare Lonnie for; a suspicion that got a bit of confirmation as Richardson performed well in Lonnie’s absence against the Lakers. The Spurs are rarely rich with drama (something I appreciate about them), but this (for me, at least) is playing out as a very interesting bit of roster limbo, and I am here for it. Then again, I’d love for the dramatics to involve both players playing out of their minds, because that’s the sort of drama that seems like it would benefit everyone.
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.