Well, that went about as well as could be expected.
After an aberration of a first quarter that saw the Raptors lead 36-24, the Spurs roared back in their machine-like way before coasting to a 116-103 lead. It was an entertaining game for the most part, with the Raptors moving the ball well and getting solid performances from most of their starters. The bench, on the other hand, was very thin; Tyler Hansbrough is still hurt and the players coming from Sacramento haven't played yet. Times were so desperate that Dwane Casey even had to dust off Austin Daye for 14 forgettable minutes.
If things go well, these types of games will become par for the course for the rest of the season: Raptors play hard, play well, have a few nice moments and eventually lose. That task is immeasurably easier against the Spurs, who are simply a delight to watch. It's been said a million times, but they always make the extra pass, every player knows their role and no team does a better job of maximizing its talent (to no one's surprise, Marco Belinelli is having a career year).
A few other notes from a thoroughly predictable night:
- Amir Johnson had his fourth straight excellent performance, notching 19 and 9 in only 28 minutes. It continues to amaze me that he was benched in favor of Hansbrough less than two weeks ago. Like many other players who have suited up for the Raptors over the year, the poor guy deserves better. He's done nothing but bust his ass for the past five seasons with very little reward. He has one more year left on his eminently reasonable contract and I hope he's still around when this thing finally starts to turn around.
- Terrence Ross wasn't particularly great (4-13 shooting, 5 turnovers), but he played a ton of minutes and made four threes. If Casey gives John Salmons minutes over him, I might have to give up on this season. Not really, but that would be awful.
- Very solid performance by Dwight Buycks. Once the inevitable Lowry trade is made (more on that coming tomorrow), he's in line to become the primary backup behind Vasquez. The next 60 games are about evaluating players more than anything and Buycks deserves a look as much as anyone.
- I hate to admit it, but I spent a good chunk of the second half watching Kansas and Florida. Andrew Wiggins (26 points, 11 rebounds) was fantastic, scoring 11 points in the last two-and-a-half minutes. He showed off his outside shot by making four threes and even drew a not-so-subtle tanking reference from fellow Canadian Dan Shulman, who mentioned how much an NBA team "north of the border" would like to get their hands on Wiggins. I probably wasn't the only one flipping between the Raptors game and Kansas, and it won't be the last time a college game draws me in this year.
- Manu Ginobili is 36 and is in the twilight of his career, but he's still a basketball virtuoso. His shotmaking and passing remain sublime and he's still often thinking two steps ahead of the defense. James Harden is probably the closest thing to Ginobili out there, but his game is an uglier version of Manu's. I'll miss him when he's gone.
- Nice to see Cory Joseph get a round of applause from the Air Canada Centre when he checked in for the first time during the fourth quarter. Joseph has lost minutes to Patty Mills so far this season, but has played well in the limited time he's received.
Next up for the Raptors are the Sixers on Friday. That might be a tough one to lose.