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Spurs can’t overcome Raptors’ pesky defense in 10th straight loss

The Spurs won two quarters but also lost two others pretty handily.

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

The Toronto Raptors may have entered this game five games under .500 and on the outside looking in at the Eastern Conference play-in, but their strength aligns with one of the Spurs’ biggest weaknesses, and that’s forcing turnovers and getting out in transition. They used those strengths to their advantage, bothering the Spurs all night with pesky defense and opportunistic scoring.

The Spurs opened the game well, being patient on the offensive end and initially keeping the Raptors out of transition and limiting them to halfcourt offense to take a 17-13 lead. Unfortunately, as the bench unit came in, the wheels started falling off, and a series of errors and turnovers turned into a 14-0 run for the Raptors as they raced out to a 27-17 lead. Blake Wesley helped stop the bleeding with five straight points and a steal, but 18 first-quarter points from Pascal Siakam was too much, and the Spurs entered the second quarter down 34-24.

The second unit made up for their first quarter transgressions by starting the second quarter strong. Zach Collins scored the Spurs’ first seven points help to get them back within two, and before the Raptors starters came back in, the Spurs tied things back up at 45 even, forcing a Raptors timeout. The Spurs stole the inbound on the next possession to briefly retake the lead for the first time since early in the first quarter, but again the Raptors responded with an 8-0 run. The Spurs didn’t cave this time, however, keeping Toronto from pulling any further away and entered the half only down 54-57.

Unfortunately, the third quarter ended up being an inverse-repeat (is that a thing?) of the first. The Raptors scored the first six points while the Spurs picked up three quick fouls, and Gregg Popovich called timeout after they stretched the lead back to double digits, 70-60. Toronto continued to hit their threes and benefit from some favorable officiating, spending over half of the quarter in the bonus. They got 12 free throws in the quarter while the Spurs struggled to hit shots and take care of the ball, giving up five turnovers for nine points. The lead got as high as 18 before the Toronto settled for an 88-75 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Both teams were sloppy in the final frame, but the Raptors did enough to keep the lead between 10-15 points most of the time. Chris Boucher had 7 of his 18 points in the quarter, and while Keldon Johnson tried his best to keep his team in it with 10 of his 22 points in the quarter after a quiet middle two quarters, it wasn’t enough. Every time the Spurs had a chance to make a play and possibly start a run, the Raptors upped their pressing defense and forced a turnover or a miss. In the end, a dominant second quarter and even fourth wasn’t enough to overcome getting outscored by 10 points in both the first and third quarters, and the Spurs lost 98-112.

Game Notes

  • It didn’t feel like it, but the Spurs actually ended up with more free throws than the Raptors by the end of the game, with a 27 to 21 advantage in attempts. Unfortunately, they were uncharacteristically bad at the stripe, only hitting 19, leaving 8 lost points on the court. The other area they struggled was in the fast break, where the Raptors lead the league. Toronto got 27 fast-break points to just 19 for the Spurs, and there’s another eight-point disadvantage for a total of 16 points and the difference between a win and loss for the Spurs. More often than not, it’s the little things that hurts them.
  • It’s quite possible we have seen the last of this Spurs team as currently constructed. With the trade deadline looming tomorrow (or today, if you’re reading this on Thursday) at 2:00 PM CT, the Spurs have been open to listening to offers (especially for draft compensation), and Doug McDermott, Josh Richardson and Jakob Poeltl have all been linked to trade talks. Whether any or all of them are still Spurs when they play again on Friday and/or if we see any new faces remains to be seen. Of note: during the game, Marc Stein tweeted that while the Spurs have expressed interest in keeping Poeltl, there are now stronger signals than ever that he might be moved. Part of me hopes this isn’t true. I’m not ready to say goodbye.

Play of the Game

Just in case this is the last we’ve seen of Poeltl in a Spurs uniform, here he is with one of his classic push-shots early in the game. It wasn’t his finest night despite scoring 12 points and 7 rebounds, but again, I just hope this isn’t goodbye.

Up next: Friday, Feb. 10 at Detroit Pistons at 6:00 PM on Bally Sports SW-SA

This will be the Spurs best chance to break their 10-game losing streak and one of the few winnable games on the Rodeo Road Trip schedule. Yes, both teams are chasing the top overall pick, but everyone needs a win to keep morale up, and the Spurs could use one now.