The Raptors’ fatigue showed itself on the defensive boards where the Spurs pulled down a season high 16, which helped them to a 24-14 advantage in the points in the paint department. But don’t feel too badly for these Raptors. They did not get cheated nor did they cheat themselves. Playing the second night of a back-to-back against a team that was waiting for them to get here, the Raps did not lie down.
But these are the Spurs, who only lose to good teams. Solidly beaten by the Thunder on Saturday night, Gregg Popovich decided to try some new things with his rotations against the Raptors, throwing things against a wall to see what might stick in a few months when Danny Green has gone cold again. The result was a sloppy game that played right into the hands of the feisty Raptors.
“I told the guys here, it was a good start,” Casey said after Toronto fell to 11-15 on the season. “We’re just getting started to where we want to go. We’ve got a tough month of January coming up, but this is the next step for us: To fight through mental fatigue, thinking we’re physically fatigued. “That’s the NBA. We’ve got a lot of back-to-backs coming up, a lot of games in a row and now we have to fight through that physically and get ourselves mentally prepared throughout the day, do whatever we have to do to take care of our bodies and be mentally ready to step into the arena and fight when you feel like you’re a little tired.”
After playing in Oklahoma City on Sunday, the Raptors had the tired team excuse against the rested Spurs, but they didn’t let it show initially as Kyle Lowry opened and closed the scoring in the first quarter, putting up 12 of his team’s 26 points for Toronto’s only leads of the night. Lowry had 23 points, 4 rebounds and 9 assists in the game.
Terrence Ross hasn’t lost his confidence despite some shaky shooting lately, and dribbled into open paint for short jumpers several times. DD, the object of considerable defensive attention, had to work hard for his 6 points. He was never able to get untracked, finishing with a disappointing 13.
It’s funny how guys grow on you when you see them at work each day. I have a better appreciation of his game up close. Always respected his scoring punch yet never appreciated how smart a player he is. He is a sound defender and can create scoring chances for teammates. Heady and capable player.
Anyone in Sacramento reading this might have fallen off their stool by now. For whatever reason the Salmons we are seeing in Toronto is not the one who left the California capital. Sometimes it’s just time to move on. Opportunity also plays into it. Salmons brought with him an on-court demeanour that was not in abundance on the Toronto roster and because of that has an opportunity in Toronto he didn’t have in Sacramento. And he’s making the most of it.
“He’s played in the playoffs, he’s been a leader a long time, played with a lot of great guys,” DeMar DeRozan said of Salmons. “He knows how to play the game. He knows what to do when he’s out there with the ball in his hands, like (Sunday) he took control of it and that’s big, to have a vet like that.”
At some point, the Raptors are going to run out of players to trade. After dealing Andrea Bargnani and then Rudy Gay (along with Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray), Toronto has gone on an unexpected winning tilt, going 5-2 since moving Gay to Sacramento. It could be a dead cat bounce. They could be legitimately decent despite the drought of top-tier talent. Either way, it’s been fun to watch.
Happy holidays, folks. Hopefully you aren’t being affected by the blackout anymore, and have somewhere warm and safe to be with your family.