A win for the Raptors against such a strong Spurs team would be just what the doctor ordered to get them back on track, but that won’t be easy.
This will be the first of two games that All-Star DeMar DeRozan is expected to miss with a sprained ankle, and the team has already been without their glue guy, Patrick Patterson, for six straight games. Thankfully, Patterson practiced on Monday, so his return looks imminent.
On the other side, the Spurs are currently without Pau Gasol (broken hand) and Tony Parker (sprained foot), but they still have a fresh Kawhi Leonard — coming off a DNP-rest — and LaMarcus Aldridge. Not to mention, no team fills gaps in their rotation better than San Antonio.
Even the fact that the Spurs are on the second half of a back-to-back set isn’t really an advantage for the Raptors, since the Spurs manhandled the Brooklyn Nets last night and subsequently didn’t have to play their main guys heavy minutes.
Coming in on a maddening three-game losing streak to face a 35-9 Spurs team, the Raptors will have to dig deep in order to have a shot at winning this one.
Here are a few things to keep an eye on:
The Spurs’ Smothering Defense
In the last meeting between these two squads just three weeks ago, the Spurs trounced the Raps 110-82. San Antonio shot 55.1% from the field and 54.2% (13-for-24) from long range in that one, while holding the Raptors to an abysmal 37.3% from the field and 22.2% (4-for-18) from deep.
Both of these teams have league-leading offenses — the Raptors are second in the NBA in offensive rating (points scored per 100 possessions) at 112.3 and the Spurs are fourth at 111.7 — but it’s defense that sets them apart. The Spurs have the league’s third-ranked defense with a defensive rating of 101.6 (points allowed per 100 possessions), as compared to the Raptors, who rank 18th at 105.9.
As a result, the Spurs are one of only two teams in the NBA who have a higher net rating (points scored minus points allowed per 100 possessions) than the Raptors:
- Golden State Warriors - 12.2 net rating
- San Antonio Spurs - 10.1 net rating
- Toronto Raptors - 6.4 net rating
- Houston Rockets - 6.2 net rating
- Los Angeles Clippers - 5.7 net rating
Kawhi Leonard is having an MVP-calibre season, averaging a career-best 25.5 points per game, while adding 5.7 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.8 steals, and 0.7 blocks per contest, and shooting 49.1% from the field, 41.5% from three-point range, and 91.2% from deep.
He’s vying to be only the fourth player in NBA history to join the 50/40/90 club while scoring more than 25 points per game (with Larry Bird, Kevin Durant, and Stephen Curry being the others).
He’s a handful on offense, while also being the league’s two-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year. There’s a reason that he was recently voted an All-Star starter in the loaded Western Conference, and he’ll be trouble for the Raptors on both sides of the ball tonight.
Lowry Needs to Step Up
In the last meeting between these two teams, Kyle Lowry had his worst game of the season, scoring only six points on 2-for-9 shooting (0-for-7 from deep), with four rebounds, two assists, and posting a team-worst -30 in 29 minutes of action.
Needless to say, with DeMar DeRozan out of the lineup, a lot of the burden to carry the load for the Raptors will lie on Lowry’s shoulders in this matchup. If the Raptors hope to pull out a win, it will likely take a monster KLOE game.
Where to Watch: Sportsnet One, 7:00 p.m. EST