All night, it seemed like the Raptors were a 12-0, maybe an 8-0 run away from finally snapping a ten year winless drought in San Antonio. They just couldn’t get out of their own damn way.
Without their big man in Jonas Valanciunas (ankle), the Raptors got pounded on the glass. On the other end, they missed open shots that could’ve sparked timely runs. The result was a close game, one where the Spurs finally made the run that counted on their way to a 101-97 win.
It’s Toronto’s first loss of the season, and a disappoint start to their longest road trip of the year (six games).
The game was lost in two glaring areas. San Antonio out-rebounded the Raptors 56-33, getting ten more possessions than Toronto. LaMarcus Aldridge was a beast, especially in the fourth quarter, when one touch foul and a more rambunctious one sent out his best competition in Serge Ibaka. The rest of the Raptors’ bigs — Lucas Nogueira (who started in place of Valanciunas) and Jakob Poetl — were no match for the length of Aldridge and the Spurs guards inside. Aldridge had 20 points and eight rebounds. Dejounte Murray had 16 points and 15(!!) rebounds. It was that kind of a game.
On the offensive end, things looked a little better. The ball was moving well, as it did in the first two games against Philadelphia and Chicago. Open shots were earned, and taken. They just didn’t fall. The Raptors were a dismal 10-for-38 from three-point land, taking almost half their field goal attempts from distance, and making just 26.3 per cent. That mark was helped along by a few garbage time threes.
The game showed a couple weaknesses the Raptors will no doubt work through early in the season. With a lot of young players getting time, pressure shots were missed and rebound attempts looked scrambled. Nogueira got lost quite a bit trying to box out Aldridge and Joffrey Lauvergne, and once the Spurs realized his weakness, they started going at him in pick and roll action.
Young teams have games like this, though, and there was no expecting perfection from this Raptors team. Still, it’s disappointing to see Toronto lose a winnable game like this one. Part of that disappointment comes from watching Kyle Lowry, who has been less than himself through three games. Lowry tallied just eight points on 11 shots, and still hasn’t been aggressive looking for his offense. DeMar DeRozan, meanwhile, has turned it on since the Philly game, and it would’ve been nice to see more possessions go his way on Monday, as he had 28 points on 20 shots to go with four assists and two rebounds.
DeRozan will need support in the long run, though. Without Valanciunas’ easy buckets, the offense looked a little unsure. Those pump fakes on open shots reared their ugly heads again, but perhaps a crisis of confidence is better in Game 3 than in May.
Regardless, the road trip marches on. The Raptors will take on the Warriors on Wednesday.