It’s midway through the month and Toronto is looking a tad more stable. Despite the injuries to Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry, the Raptors have posted a 3-4 record this month. Granted the wins came against some weaker competition in Washington, Cleveland, and a Curry-less Warriors, but the Raptors have shown some considerable fight. While Pascal Siakam’s late turnover against the Knicks ultimately decided the game, the second unit’s inspired play kept the Raptors in striking distance. With just how poorly Toronto has fared in the back end of back-to-backs, and the normally rocky play from the bench, it was actually good to see. Malachi Flynn’s explosion in the final two minutes last night against the Hawks once again gave Toronto a chance — albeit slim — to win the game.
Visiting Toronto’s temporary home tonight are the San Antonio Spurs. Among them, a few familiar faces — Rudy Gay, whose trade to Sacramento kick started the best era in Raptors basketball; Jakob Poeltl, Toronto’s last lottery pick who had a budding bromance with Pascal Siakam before getting traded; and finally, DeMar DeRozan, whose continued improvement year over year, four All-Star selections, and memorable playoff performances were essential in the development of the franchise into a winner.
Tonight, its another back-to-back in this shortened season. Toronto is just 1-11 in the second game of back-to-backs this season with the lone win coming against the Timberwolves. San Antonio is 4-6 in their last 10 and have won their last two which included a game winning shot by DeRozan against Dallas.
Here are the details for tonight’s contest.
Where to Watch:
TSN, 7:30 PM EST
Toronto – Kyle Lowry, Gary Trent Jr., OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Chris Boucher
San Antonio – Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, DeMar DeRozan, Keldon Johnson, Jakob Poeltl
Toronto – Fred VanVleet (hip – OUT), DeAndre’ Bembry (hamstring – OUT), Paul Watson (COVID-19 protocols – OUT), Jalen Harris (hip – OUT)
San Antonio – Gorgui Dieng (shoulder – OUT), Trey Lyles (ankle – OUT)
Raptor Nation! Malachi Flynn has taken advantage of his minutes. With the changing of the guard being accelerated because of a down year, Flynn has shown some glimpses of sustainable production. Having appeared in the last 14 games its clear he’s earned his minutes. However, since VanVleet’s injury, Flynn has played over 30 minutes a contest in six of seven games.
In those minutes, Flynn is averaging 13 points, 6 assists, and 2 steals while shooting 42 percent from distance. His knack for steals comes straight out of the VanVleet playbook, often poking the ball out from behind the play. What started as a guard heavy roster on opening night has slowly been changed. The trades of Davis and Thomas as well as the release of McCaw has made Flynn’s presence and play necessary for Toronto. Let’s see how he fares when VanVleet returns.
What’s Next in San Antonio?
DeMar DeRozan, who turns 32 in August, is heading into free agency in what could be his last big payday. Patty Mills, a Spurs player for 10 seasons and important piece in their 2014 NBA title, also enters unrestricted free agency. With a handful of promising guards in Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker, and rookie Devin Vassell, is it time to move in another direction for San Antonio?
After tying a professional sports record of 22 consecutive years in the post-season, San Antonio missed the playoffs in the bubble. They currently sit ninth in the Western Conference, a game above the Warriors, at 26-26. In any other season they would be sitting outside a playoff position in a notoriously difficult conference. They decided to move on from LaMarcus Aldridge at the deadline. It’s time to give the youth a chance.
The Baynes vs. Boucher debate has dissipated as of late. Baynes had his second straight DNP-CD on Tuesday night. New Raptors Freddie Gillespie and Khem Birch have taken his minutes and it seems it could be a permanent decision. Out of the two new bigs in the rotation, Birch looks primed to earn more minutes in the stretch run of the season.
Birch nearly set a new career high in just his second game as a Raptor against the Hawks. He finished with 13 points and 6 rebounds in 25 minutes. With Boucher less equipped to deal with centers and Birch having some experience under Nick Nurse on team Canada, it won’t be surprising to see Birch play considerable minutes and at times, start at centre. While Birch and Boucher can play together, do we have a new debate on our hands?