OK, so that was a little more like it, wasn’t it? The last time the Toronto Raptors and San Antonio Spurs met, the emotions were high, and the Raptors folded like cheap lawn chairs. This time, they weathered every San Antonio precision-passing storm, effectively counter-attacked, got defensive stops when needed — and came away with the victory.
These thoughts are short (and late) one but definitely needed to get them down following that one! Let’s go:
I Don’t Miss Those “F--k, DeMar” Moments
When DeMar DeRozan was traded this past summer my wife said, “well, I guess I won’t hear you yelling “F--k, DeMar!” at the TV from the other room anymore, referring to my penchant for hurling expletives every time DeRozan settled for a jumper or botched a critical possession.
He had three such cases in the closing 90 seconds last night — missing a midrange J over Lowry; a turnover as he dribbled up court, leading to a Kawhi Leonard go-ahead dunk; and then beating Danny Green one-on-one only to pass out to Davis Bertans, who missed the go-ahead jumper. (DeRozan did have a great dish to Marco Bellinelli in there that speaks to his improved playmaking.)
Funny thing is, while I certainly don’t miss those plays... I can’t deny that I felt bad, or at the very least uncomfortable, watching them unfold. As much as I got used to the frustration of those plays, obviously, when he was a Raptor I never wanted DeMar to fail. There was a lot of internal conflict last night; I’m still a DeMar DeRozan fan, so of course I want to see him succeed. But I also want the Raptors to succeed. Is this how Dell Curry felt watching Steph and Seth in the three-point shootout? I don’t know, but my emotions were definitely all over the charts. When DeRozan went at Lowry? When Leonard went at DeRozan? How does basketball make you feel these things so deeply?
Even the fact that DeRozan finished with 23 points on 12 shots and Leonard finished with 25 on 23 shots had me feeling confused.
At least this time out, the action on the court matched the intensity of the emotions!
The Three-Point Shootout we All Expected
The Spurs are 29th in the league at shooting three-pointers, at 25 per game. The Raptors are 19th in three-point shooting percentage, just under 35%. So of course the Spurs attempted 37 threes last night, and the Raptors shot 14-for-30. This is not a complaint, certainly, but it was definitely not the game I expected from the cold-shooting Raptors and the kings of the mid-range.
Will this mark a second-half shooting turnaround for the Raps? Maybe; it’s possible the additions of Jeremy Lin and Marc Gasol are opening up more good looks. Maybe not: I certainly don’t expect to see Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby combine to go 5-for-5 from downtown again anytime soon.
Jack Armstrong Forever
In the third Danny Green got called for an, ahem, questionable offensive foul, and Jack Armstrong did not let official Marc Davis off the hook. “In my opinion, that’s either a charge, or a play-on,” he said. Davis went on and T’ed up Nick Nurse, and Jack said, “He just lit up Nick Nurse. You gotta keep your cool as an official.” And when Nurse got his second technical and got tossed? You know Armstrong didn’t let up. “You gotta keep your ego out of the game,” he said of Davis, “I’m not here to watch you ref the game.”
My words can’t do it justice, but it was an all-time great Jack Armstrong rant. (I’m also not going to complain about the officials; I still don’t know how or why that wasn’t an over-and-back call on Leonard at the end!)
Pascal’s Passing, Hoo Boy
I already mentioned Pascal Siakam’s two-for-two shooting from downtown, which bumps him up to 35% on the season from three-point range, but how about the other developing part of his game: his passing. He finished with six assists, including two great dishes to Leonard in the third that led to easy buckets.
Much has been made of Pascal’s “playmaking” this season but that generally refers to him using his quickness to break down the D and open up the floor. But the first of those two passes — a pinpoint dish from the wing that led Leonard directly to the hoop — were the sort of thing that caused people to coin the phrase “point forward” back in the day.
It’s yet another aspect of Siakam’s game that continues to develop.
The DeMar DeRozan Tribute Video was... Odd
The moment itself was great. The response from the crowd was perfect. DeRozan’s response was perfect. The actual video... I don’t know, man. It was about 100 one-second clips strung together so haphazardly that there was no narrative, and no way to get a sense of what DeMar accomplished or what he meant... just a lot of “stuff”. The clips were so short not one highlight was shown in full and nothing stood out. Like how do you have a DeRozan tribute video without showing the dunk against Detroit? We don’t even get to hear his voice once on the whole thing.
Judge for yourself:
Maybe this is a video for the smartphone generation and my age is showing. Or maybe I’m cranky from lack of sleep. Regardless — I think there’s more to DeMar’s time in Toronto than anything you can show in blink-or-you’ll-miss-it clips.
So, it wasn’t exactly the game I wanted (my wish remains for a Kawhi-DeMar shootout where both go for 50 but Kyle Lowry hits the game-winner at the buzzer) or the tribute video I wanted, but in the end, it is the outcome I wanted (the Raptors are aiming for the Finals and every win counts, even an emotional one at the hands of DeMar DeRozan) and the fan response to DeRozan was what I wanted (two-minute standing O!).
And hey — seven straight! That’s all right, man.