These Toronto Raptors keep it creative, don’t they?
On Sunday afternoon at the Air Canada Centre, the Raptors dropped a tough 111-106 decision in double overtime to the San Antonio Spurs.
This comes after returning from an 0-3 road trip that saw them lose all three games by a combined 10 points. It’s been a rough start to the season in Toronto. Against the Spurs, Andrea Bargnani followed up a 34-point performance versus the Pistons with the roughest game of his eight-year NBA career, finishing 2-for-19 from the floor.
Despite Bargnani’s struggles, the Raptors managed to hold a slight lead against the Spurs for most of the game. The fourth quarter was tight, with San Antonio tying the game midway through, setting up a seesaw battle for the rest of regulation with three lead changes and five ties. On the final possession in regulation, the Spurs had a chance to win it with 24 seconds on the clock, but a missed three-point attempt from Tony Parker led to overtime.
In the first overtime the Raptors fell behind by four with 25 seconds remaining, but a three from Kyle Lowry and a dunk from DeMar DeRozan sandwiched around two made free throws from Manu Ginobili brought Toronto to within one with 13.9 seconds remaining. On the Spurs final possession in the first overtime, Gary Neal went to the line and made one of two free throws, making it a one-possession game with 13.4 seconds on the clock. After DeRozan received a non-call on a drive to the hoop, he fought for the offensive rebound and layed the ball in to tie the game with 0.9 seconds on the clock, forcing a second overtime.
In the second extra session, San Antonio simply executed their plays while the Raptors struggled. One team looked like a veteran squad and the other did not. Lowry and Bargnani combined to shoot 2-for-8 in the second overtime, while Parker made all three of his field-goal attempts to score seven in the period, just two fewer than Toronto’s nine as a team. With time running out, the Raptors tried to make up ground by shooting three-pointers, but ended up shooting 0-for-5 from beyond the arc.
With the loss, the Raptors fall to 3-11 on the season.
* Jonas Valanciunas: In his first game against Tim Duncan, Valanciunas did more than hold his own, scoring a career-high 22 points to go with seven rebounds, three assists and three blocked shots. After proving to the coaching staff that he deserves to be on the floor in the fourth quarter, Valanciunas played 39 minutes against the Spurs and played an important part in getting the Raptors to overtime with a strong fourth quarter.
* Ed Davis: Roughly 10 days ago, Dwane Casey told the media that he had asked Davis if he had seen Ed Davis lately. Davis has responded well to the criticism and had his best game of the season against the Spurs. Davis finished with 15 points and 14 rebounds (with just one personal foul) in under 22 minutes of playing time. His energy and hustle troubled the Spurs and he was a big reason for the success the team had in the second and third quarters.
* Rebounding: The Raptors outrebounded San Antonio 61-52 in the loss. While Bargnani couldn’t buy a bucket offensively, he was active defensively and pulled down eight rebounds. Dominic McGuire, Valanciunas and DeMar DeRozan each grabbed seven boards and Lowry added another eight of his own. Of the Raptors’ 61 rebounds, 17 were offensive, compared to seven for San Antonio. When you’re a team that is struggling offensively, those extra possessions matter.
* Bargnani’s shooting: This is the most glaring stat of the game and it’s tough to win a game when any player shoots 2-for-19, let alone one of the team’s main offensive weapons. Bargnani couldn’t get his shots to fall on Sunday. He was 0-for-7 from beyond the arc and had some great, wide-open looks. It was just a brutal game for Bargnani.
* Shooting woes: The team as a whole shot just 36 per cent for the game. Of course, we’ve mentioned Bargnani’s struggles, but DeRozan finished 11-for-28 (with a few non-calls during drives to the basket that had members of the Raptors organization pretty displeased after the game), Lowry was 6-for-16 from the floor and Jose Calderon was 3-for-14. It was a rough game for everyone with the exception of Valanciunas and Davis.
* Speedy point guards killing the Raptors. This isn’t anything new (see Jrue Holiday, Brandon Knight, Kemba Walker, etc), but Parker absolutely shredded Toronto, getting to the rim whenever he wanted. Not just driving to the rim, dancing, weaving, spinning. He was fantastic, finishing with 32 points, six rebounds and five assists. This league is filled with athletic, quick, high-scoring point guards. The Raptors need to find a better way to contain them.
* The decision to go back to a struggling Bargnani over Davis was one that Dwane Casey was asked about repeatedly in his post-game presser. Here’s his take on why he made the rotation call that he did: “Ed, he played well tonight. He made good of his minutes. I was really happy for him. You can second guess me for not getting him back in. But I’ve got to go with Andrea. Come hell or high water, he’s our guy. He just got 34 points (against Detroit on Friday). He was doing a good job with his 7-foot length on Duncan. I thought he did a good job on him. If you want to second-guess me, that’s great. Go ahead. That’s what I’m here for.”
* Davis was asked if it was hard to sit when he had it going. He was very PC in his answer and gave a good-teammate response: “It’s not hard at all. Backing up Andrea, he’s a good player. Obviously he didn’t have a great shooting night tonight, but when he gets it rolling he’s tough to guard. It’s disappointing that we didn’t get the win tonight.”
* DeRozan stressed the confidence the locker room has to compete with any team out there and said the key for them is just learning how to close out games: “We know we can play with anybody. It doesn’t matter if we go out there and it’s the Eastern [Conference] all-stars. We’re going to go out there and play our hardest. We’re going to fight with them to the end.”
* Gregg Popovich on the performance from the Raptors in the loss: “Lots of times at the end of games it’s you’re making shots or you’re not. They didn’t make shots. It’s as simple as that. They executed just as well as we did. They got just as many open shots. They just didn’t go in. They busted their ass, but they didn’t fall for them. That’s nobody’s fault. You just keep shooting them.”