Hope everyone is having a fabulous holiday.
Well the Raptors might not be able enjoy Boxing Day like the rest of us, but something tells me that they don’t mind too much.
Hopefully Raptor Nation basked in the glow of the current 5-game winning streak during this long layoff as there is a serious threat to the longest active winning streak in the Eastern conference.
The Raptors visit San Antonio, the team that just doesn’t go away. Every year the establishment is ready to write them off, but they continue to reside in the realm of NBA contenders.
The biggest reason is the resurgence of one Tim Duncan. While still a quality big man, he was experiencing the inevitable decline that comes with age. However this year his numbers have taken an appreciable bump, pretty much across the board. Looks like losing a few pounds has gone a long way for this future HOFer.
Let’s break down the individual match ups:
Point Guard: Jose Calderon vs. Tony Parker
While it’s tempting to give Jose Calderon the edge due to his current stretch of stellar play, Tony Parker is still Tony Parker. The only chance the Raptors might have of stealing this one is if Calderon looks for his offense. He is one of those rare shooters that you don’t mind firing away from outside, you can’t see him missing too many open looks, even if they are of the undesirable “long two” variety.
Shooting Guard: DeMar DeRozan vs. Danny Green/Manu Ginobili
Danny Green can shoot, and when he’s got his three-ball working he does have the potential to have a big night. As long as DeMar doesn’t have to over-rotate too much and closes out well on Green he’ll be OK. Manu Ginobili on the other hand, is still a quality guard who does everything well. Still beats me why he doesn’t play bigger minutes, but if he will be on the court when it matters.
Small Forward: Mikael Pietrus/Alan Anderson vs. Kawhi Leonard
Sorry, as well as Alan Anderson has played, Kawhi Leonard actually has more of a track record. He definitely has an advantage over Pietrus, but you could say that for every other starting SF in the league. Alan Anderson will have to find a way to continue his hot shooting. His release is actually quite high, which bodes well for him if he can gain some consistency with it.
Power Forward: Ed Davis vs. Tim Duncan
Yikes. As much as Davis is playing right now, he’ll have trouble playing the now rare breed of skilled post players. Duncan is arguably, even now, the best of that bunch. He will need help, and luckily Amir is great in that regard. This Spurs team, Parker aside, is a little on the slow side, so Davis could have a big night offensively if he flashes to the rim actively.
Center: Amir Johnson vs. Tiago Splitter
Lost in the Jose Calderon love-in and the rise of Ed Davis is the steady if not spectacular play of Amir. Look no further than the 4th quarter against Detroit, where the Raptors started falling apart after he tweaked his ankle. Only upon his return did they get some important stops to seal the victory. His main impact this game will again be his elite defense, where he might be able to rotate off Splitter to handle guys like Parker at the rim. He’s skilled enough to make teams pay, Splitter, so easier said than done.
Winning streaks, as much as they may give teams that little extra boost of confidence, they can provide a letdown when they inevitably come to an end. Even the most optimistic Raptor supporter knows that this will be a tough game to pull out. The good news is that the Raptors do play the Spurs tough. The games are usually close, and this game expects to be no different.
Vegas line: Spurs by 13
A-Dubs line: Spurs by 3