Culture of Hoops

San Antonio Spurs’ wily vets easily handle Toronto Raptors

Duncan-Spurs

The Toronto Raptors took a 1-0 record without Rudy Gay into last night’s game against the San Antonio Spurs.

From the opening tip Toronto looked like a completely different basketball club. The ball was moving and everyone was making their shots, something that never happened with Gay on the team. The Raptors looked like world beaters, leading the Spurs 36-24 after the first quarter while shooting an amazing 62.5 percent from the field.

As was expected, the Spurs made adjustments and the game seemed over after the first half.

The Spurs went on a 7-0 run to begin the second quarter, led by Aron Baynes, who decimated Jonas Valanciunas down low. Valanciunas had a great first quarter, in which he had 10 points and 3 rebounds on 5-for-5 shooting against Tim Duncan. But when Baynes subbed in, Jonas had trouble guarding the stronger player. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich started Baynes in the second half rather than Jeff Ayres, a move that Raptors coach Dwane Casey would never have thought of.

Valanciunas finished the game with 14 points and 4 rebounds on 6-for-8 shooting. You might ask yourself what happened after the first quarter when he got the majority of those numbers to the end of the game. It was partially because Jonas was not being aggressive enough and getting dominated by Baynes, but mostly it was his teammates once again not giving him looks in the post.

From what I remember, J.V. had exactly zero touches in the second quarter, one in the third quarter where he missed a turnaround hook shot over Baynes, and two touches in the final two minutes of the game. With one of those two touches in the fourth, he got fouled and made both free-throws. The other one resulted in a dunk. Jonas scored 10 points in the first quarter because his team was moving the ball and getting him looks. They stopped doing that over the next three quarters. Hopefully, for the sake of Valanciunas’ development, they remember that he might actually be the best player on this team and feed him the ball more than five times a game.

Once again the MVP of the game for Toronto was Amir Johnson, who had 19 points and 9 rebounds on an amazing 9-for-11 shooting. These games from Amir are always expected from Raptors fans so it’s not surprising that he is averaging 22.3 points and 9 rebounds on an astounding 73.5 percent shooting in his last four games. It seems like more trades will be coming Toronto’s way in the coming days and Johnson’s name has been in trade rumors. You probably won’t find one fan of the Raptors who wants Amir gone, which makes him being sought after around the league not surprising at all.

There wasn’t really a performance from any of the Spurs that jumps out at you, nothing new for this team. However, Manu Ginobili had a solid game, finishing with 16 points, 9 assists and 5 rebounds.

This Spurs team has the rare combination of veteran experience and young players who all buy into the same concept. With the consistency of Gregg Popovich running the team and Duncan, Ginobili and Tony Parker all still playing together after more than a decade of dominance, this Spurs team is still one of the best in the NBA, something to be impressed by.

Next up for the Raptors are the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday in Toronto. The Raptors won their last meeting with the 76ers in November so they know what it will take to beat them once again. The two best players in that last meeting were DeMar DeRozan, who had 33 points for the Raptors, and Spencer Hawes, who had 28 points and 10 rebounds for Philadelphia. We’ll see if they can have similar performances on Friday.

Image courtesy of Keith Allison

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