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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Toronto Raptors

Wemby, a ‘new hope’, gets his first match-up with the trade partner for the Spurs’ previous ‘new hope’

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Toronto Raptors Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

I remember very clearly where I was and what I was doing when Kawhi Leonard was traded. At my desk, in the middle of writing an article about Leonard, I received the text from my brand new editor.

I sat there in shock for a good ten minutes, and then, like every journalist is taught, I pivoted. The next evening my very first article was published here, at Pounding The Rock. The article was as positive as I felt I could make it, and forward looking, but as a fan of the team I just felt lost. There were just so many facets to digest.

For starters, I didn’t love the terms of trade. And I really didn’t like the shipping out of fan favorite Danny Green in addition to Leonard. Privately, I was a little amused that PATFO had shipped Leonard off the Canada. But the cost was steep.

And while I couldn’t blame Toronto for taking a swing, I resented that they were almost certainly going to use San Antonio’s anointed franchise player to chase a championship. It chafed even more that they eventually pulled it off.

Mostly though, I just wondered what was next. How often does any franchise get to draft talents like Robinson, Duncan, Parker, Ginobili, and Leonard in such close succession? It felt like the wilderness could be due for a long wandering by the franchise and fans.

Five years later, and a transcendent answer has materialized. Once again, San Antonio was touched by the lottery gods, and now they’re getting to take Wemby out for a test drive against the franchise that nicked their last franchise building block.

I never quite forgave the Raptors for being the beneficiaries of all that friction and turmoil. I signed up to cover their games as soon as I could, unable to look away, entranced with awful fascination. I finally feel like I can let go.

Who knows what Toronto will be on the receiving end of in this match-up? Towering dunks from the free throw line? Ungodly heat-check threes and a 38+ point outburst?

Both teams have negative net ratings, high turnover and assist numbers, and feature mostly middling shooting stats. And yet, with Victor Wembanyama on the court, anything feels possible for the Spurs, who’ve been trending upwards.

At some point, it almost feels like gloating. Almost.

Toronto Raptors at San Antonio Spurs

November 5th, 2023 | 2:30 PM CT

Watch: Bally Sports Southwest|Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)

Spurs Injuries: Devin Vassell - Out (Groin)

Raptors Injuries: Precious Achiuwa - Doubtful (Groin), Christian Koloko - Out (Illness)

What to watch for:

  • The Starting Lineup: Apart for the obvious and dazzling spectacle that is Victor Wembanyama, there have been questions about how best to optimize the starting lineup since the preseason. This time, it’s Devin Vassell’s turn by default of injury, with fans paying close attention to the choice of temporary replacement. Should it be the hyper-efficient passer in Tre Jones, whose ability to set the table potentially helps both Wembanya and Sochan, as well as overall offensive flow? Or should it be the almost equally hyper-efficient shooter in Cedi Osman, who offers more on the defensive end? Or will it be a dark horse like Devonte’ Graham (or even Doug McDermott), if Pop’s happy with his current bench rotation? There’s no truly no telling when it comes to PATFO, but my bet would be on one of those four. I’m sure we’ll all be watching either way.
  • Length vs. Length: So far this season, the Spurs have rolled out a starting lineup longer in collective height and limb that most of the teams they’ve faced, but Toronto stands as one of the few squads that can match them in both youth and elongation. The game should serve as good test of San Antonio’s bigger rotations, and especially their interior defense. Even Wemby won’t be able to suppress all of that length alone, so a collective effort will be vital in protecting the rim throughout the game and especially whenever he’s off the floor.

For the Raptors’ fans’ perspective, visit Raptor’s 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.