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Five thoughts on last night: Spurs 105, Raptors 104

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DeMar DeRozan needed a half to get over what happened the last time he was here, but after 24 minutes he did so, in a big way. 

Five thoughts recap: San Antonio Spurs 105, Toronto Raptors 104, DeMar DeRozan Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

I’ve now seen DeMar DeRozan play the Raptors twice — first about a year ago in San Antonio, and then last night here in Toronto. Last year he had his first career triple double as the Spurs blew out the Raptors, and last night, he scored 22 points on eight shots in the second half as the Spurs erased an 18-point deficit to win by one.

In between, I missed DeMar’s first game in Toronto... where he coughed up the ball in the final minute as the Raptors won.

I guess I’m DeMar’s anti-Raptors good luck charm!

It’s a Possession Game

The Raptors have excelled at generating extra possessions the past few games, through turnovers and offensive rebounds. But the Spurs are sixth-best in the league at taking care of the ball, with only 13.2 turnovers per game coming in to the game, and are the fourth-best defensive rebounding team in the league, rebounding 75.2% of opponents’ misses.

They exceeded their own high marks last night. The Spurs only turned the ball over 11 times (and the Raptors only scored nine points off those turnovers), and rebounded 77% of Toronto’s missed shots (and were +6 on the glass overall).

Obviously, in a one-point game, those possessions mattered a whole heck of a lot.

The Crunch Time Offense Was Offensive

Once again, much as they did against Portland and Charlotte, the Raptors blew a bit lead thanks to an extended second-half stretch of dismal offense. (To be fair... they also made some extremely poor defensive plays, too).

The Raptors are averaging 27 points per quarter in quarters 1-3 over the past three games... and 20 points per quarter in the fourth. Last night, it was a five-minute stretch of the fourth that saw the Raptors come up empty on 10 straight possessions, as San Antonio scored 17 unanswered points.

San Antonio threw out a zone defense for a run of possessions during that stretch, that once again flummoxed the Raptors, who stood around slowly passing the ball back and forth rather than cutting into the seams and zipping the ball to the open man. (At one point, Norman Powell and OG Anunoby ran the baseline — a classic zone breaker that my high school team used to use — and literally ran into each other.)

This is the point where normally I’d slander Patrick McCaw, who was less than stellar last night, and played six fourth quarter minutes, including almost that entire 17-0 run. But who else would have been better? Terence Davis was ice cold all night. Matt Thomas isn’t as good a defender. Norman Powell and Pascal Siakam were both on minutes restrictions. I think OG Anunoby could have come back sooner, but really... I don’t think you can pin this loss on McCaw. Kyle Lowry played all 12 minutes of the fourth, after all, and as the quarterback of the offense, well, some of that poor offensive play (a lot, in fact) has to fall on him.

We’ll Always Have Back-to-Back-to-Back Threes

OK, so it wasn’t a personal 10-2 run like Kawhi Leonard’s Finals Game 5 run. But the three straight threes, from Kyle Lowry, Norman Powell and Serge Ibaka, to tie the game at 100 after the Raptors had given up 31-9 run, was pretty freaking great.

Especially Serge’s shot.

The crowd was re-energized after that, and for a moment, it felt like a playoff game.

Of course, like Kawhi’s run, this one too ultimately didn’t matter. It wasn’t Klay Thompson and Steph Curry stealing the win, it was... Marco Bellinelli?

The stakes aren’t quite the same in a random January game as they are in June.

Tributes on Top of Tributes

Well, DeMar DeRozan sure gave us a throwback game, didn’t he? 25 points, 14 free throw attempts, not one single three-point attempt. Drive after drive to the hoop, drawing fouls or kicking out to teammates. Oh, and dunking all over Chris Boucher.

DeMar also got another tribute video, which, while a bit goofy to see him get one for the second game in a row (this one wasn’t a “welcome back” video, it was a “celebrate former players as part of the 25th anniversary” video and Jakob Poeltl got one too), I’m very appreciative of. As noted I missed the Spurs game in Toronto last February, so I’m glad I had a chance to see this tribute and give DeMar another (well-deserved) standing O.

It’s hard to even be mad about the loss, seeing DeMar play like that.

Well, not too mad, anyway.

Sign This Man to a Lifetime Contract

I slandered Kyle Lowry above, and I feel dirty about it, so let’s see if we can find another reason to remind ourselves why Kyle is the absolute best... ah, got it:

Kyle is the absolute best.

********

So — another loss, another lead blown, another extended drought. Are we worried? Nah. The team is getting healthy, yes, but there’s still a ways to got before they’re whole: while Norman Powell looked like he hasn’t missed a beat shooting the ball, Siakam was clearly rusty; they miss Marc Gasol’s passing and three-point shooting something fierce, especially against the zone; and Fred VanVleet’s steadying hand and three-point shooting will also be welcome, and he’ll (hopefully) help get Lowry’s minutes down.

If the Raptors can continue to tread water they’ll be in position to make a run at the two-seed when healthy.