San Antonio Spurs recover from slow start to defeat depleted Raptors
TORONTO - The numbers caught up with the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday night. So did the San Antonio Spurs.
Without four new recruits from the Rudy Gay trade, the depleted Raptors ran out of steam against the well-stocked defending Western Conference champions.
Led by Manu Ginobili's 16 points, seven Spurs scored in double figures as San Antonio recovered from a slow start to thump the Raptors 116-103 in NBA play.
Toronto (7-13) led by as much as 14 in the first quarter but, with little help available on the bench, faded fast and San Antonio (16-4) pulled ahead as the game wore on.
DeMar DeRozan and Amir Johnson led Toronto with 19 points. Tony Parker finished with 15 and Tim Duncan 14 as the Spurs went to their bench early.
It was Toronto's first game since the Gay trade was officially approved by the league, although the players involved sat out Sunday's 106-94 road win over the Lakers. Toronto used just eight players in the win, snapping a five-game losing streak.
"They got us in the second quarter. That was the difference in the game," said Toronto coach Dwane Casey. "I was really happy and proud with the way our guys executed in the first quarter. Kind of a carryover from the L.A. game and that's a good sign.
"Again, there's no excuses in this league but I'm going to chalk this one to travel a little bit, we ran out of gas. But you're talking about one of the best teams in the league in (San Antonio)."
The Raptors — returning home from a three-game West Coast swing — were without Greivis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson, John Salmons and Chuck Hayes, acquired Monday in the deal that sent Gay, Aaron Gray and Quincy Acy to Sacramento.
Forward Tyler Hansbrough was not available Tuesday, sidelined by a shoulder sprain. D.J. Augustin was waived on Monday. That left 10 players available to face the Spurs, with DeRozan and Terrence Ross struggling with their accuracy, shooting a combined 10 of 27.
"You can make all the excuses. I don't want to make any excuses," said guard Kyle Lowry. "We just lost tonight."
"It is what it is," DeRozan said of the Raptors' lack of help. "You've got to deal with it. We went out there and played hard."
Patterson, Salmons and Hayes were due to arrive in Toronto late Tuesday with Venezuela's Vasquez slated to come in Wednesday due to red tape requirements.
The Spurs, meanwhile, were in their third country in less than a week. San Antonio was in Mexico City last week for a date with the Minnesota Timberwolves that was eventually postponed due to smoke inside the arena.
Tuesday's game was the first of four in five nights for the Spurs, who were coming off a 111-100 loss Sunday in Indiana.
Three-point shooting helped the Spurs gain their lead. San Antonio, moving the ball around nicely before going cold late from outside the arc, hit 13 of 23 compared to 10 of 23 for Toronto.
Toronto had 19 turnovers, which yielded 20 points.
Centre Jonas Valanciunas looked good early Tuesday, sinking his first five shots with an arsenal ranging from a dunk and hook shot to put-back layup and tip. But he only scored four points the rest of the way.
Led by the Lithuanian, Toronto made its first six baskets for a 13-6 lead before DeRozan missed a three-point attempt some four minutes in.
The first quarter ended with the Raptors ahead 36-24 and shooting at 62.5 per cent compared to 47.8 for San Antonio. Toronto's two bigs, Valanciunas and Johnson, combined for 20 points on 10-of-12 shooting while Spurs stars Duncan and Parker totalled eight points.
"We played good basketball after the first quarter," said San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich. "We played very badly in the first quarter, no defence. Then we played pretty good ball after that."
San Antonio took control in the second quarter, outscoring Toronto 35-17 as the Raptors missed on 14-of-22 shots. A 13-2 Spurs run at the start of the quarter narrowed the gap to one point and the visitors pulled ahead for the first time, 41-40, courtesy of an Aron Baynes dunk.
San Antonio led 59-53 at the half, closing with a 13-4 run. Valanciunas and Johnson were stuck on 24 points after two quarters. Toronto's shooting percentage was down to 50 while the Spurs improved to 54.8.
The depleted Toronto bench was 1-of-7 shooting in the first half (9 of 25 overall) compared to 10 of 17 for the Spurs (23 of 38).
San Antonio pushed the lead to 15, up 89-74 at the end of the third quarter. The game was pretty much over by then.
Casey says plenty of work lies ahead for the new-look Raps.
"We're going to treat (practice) Wednesday and Thursday like training camp, we've got so many new guys coming in," he said prior to the game. "We're going to go back to basics. We've got to find out where guys can fit in."
Ross got the start at small forward Tuesday, with Casey calling the six-foot-six Ross a "freak athlete" who is one of the most athletic players he has ever coached in the NBA.
"He's a great athlete. He just has to harness that, bring it in and be a complete player, and do it on a consistent basis."
Tuesday was not his night to show it, however. He finished with 14 points on 4-of-13 shooting.
"He's a young kid but that's the only way he's going to learn, to be in there in the fray," Casey said later. "I thought he did some good things."
"A typical young guy," he added. "He and Jonas both are error-prone and we've got to continue to work with them and get them better in those areas and cut those (mistakes) down."
Asked if Ross will continue to get the start, Casey said: "We'll see." He called the start "an opportunity, not given."
Canadian Cory Joseph and former Raptor Matt Bonner got warm receptions when they checked into the game for the Spurs in the fourth quarter.
Baynes, a six-foot-10 Australian in his second year in the NBA, finished with a timely career-high 14 for the Spurs, who were without injured centre Tiago Splitter (calf).
San Antonio is now 30-9 all-time against the Raptors, and has won the last six meetings. Toronto's last victory over the Spurs was Jan. 3, 2010, at the Air Canada Centre.
Toronto FC's Brazilian target Gilberto was said to be in attendance. Raptors global ambassador Drake was also courtside.