The San Antonio Spurs have not lost at home all season. That mind-boggling factoid is enough to suggest that the Toronto Raptors will be up against a major challenge in Texas tonight. The Spurs are inching closer to the 41-0 home mark, and though the players have not said it is something they are shooting for, it must be in the back of their minds.
Though the basketball world has gotten used to dominant Spurs squads, this one may be one of the best ever. Boasting the same veteran talents that we have grown to love over the last several seasons, the team also has a duo of younger studs in Kawhi Leonard and LeMarcus Aldridge. Basically, the Spurs can do it all. They can shoot, rebound, defend and dictate the pace of play.
The Raptors are also coming into the game riding some momentum. Last night against the Memphis Grizzlies, the Raptors stormed back in the second half and picked up a solid win against a playoff team. (A playoff team racked by injuries, but still.) Plus, the Raptors recently clinched the Atlantic Division for the third-straight year, and are well on their way to clinching the second seed in the Eastern Conference.
But, even though the Raptors can't be slept on, this one won't be easy. Regardless of how many players Spurs coach Gregg Popovich rests tonight, he always seems to have a tricky plan for outwitting his counterpart. The Spurs use unselfish ball movement, they play hard on both sides of the court, and they often get great contributions out of their bench.
One player to watch tonight will be Kawhi Leonard, who has proven himself over the last two seasons to be one of the most effective defensive players in the league, and easily the best non-big stopper. He tends to defend a number of positions, based on who is going off on any given night. In particular, look for Leonard to go against DeMar DeRozan, who tends to put up forced mid-range jumpers when faced with hard defence.
A Raptors win would required a big night from Kyle Lowry, who represents the only significant positional advantage between the two teams. If Lowry goes off like he is capable of, and adds a significant amount of rebounds and assists in the process, he could give the Raps a chance. But even then, it would be a slight chance.
The Spurs are one of the hardest teams to beat in the NBA, and when you factor in that the Raptors played last night and have to take on the Spurs in San Antonio, the odds start to shrink. But, crazier things have happened.
Where to Watch: Sportsnet One, 8:30 p.m. EST