Jonas Valanciunas Powers Raptors Past Spurs to Even Summer League

Raptors 82, Spurs 76 – Box
The Raptors rebounded from their defeat to Miami by beating the Spurs 82-76, and once again Jonas Valanciunas did the heavy lifting with 19 points, 13 rebounds, including four big FTs down the stretch. Terrence Ross was better, looked partially interested in certain stretches, and had 14 points on 6-11 shooting to show for his efforts. The third big-leaguer, Quincy Acy, had 9 points and 3 rebounds in a mediocre showing where we learned that he’s desperately trying to learn how to shoot from 21 feet.

[Related: Raptors vs. Spurs – Summer League – Live Blog]

Valanciunas was matched up against 6’10” Aussie, Aron Baynes, who gave him all he could handle. Unlike against Miami, belligerent double-teams were nowhere to be found and Valanciunas was operating in mostly one-on-one situations. His 4-12 shooting night is testament to the defense being played by Baynes, but shouldn’t take away from the effectiveness of his sheer presence on the court. Valanciunas was the anchor point of the Raptors offense, and although I felt he caught the ball way too far away from the rim in most cases, he did well to dribble in to the lane, pressure the defense, and make a pass that led to something. His back-to-the-basket game isn’t there yet, and is something which should be on his to-do list.

The game was tight for three quarters, and it’s in the fourth that the Raptors went on a 15-4 run to distance themselves and assume a 11-point lead. Surprisingly, the lead came with Ross and Acy on the bench, as Devoe Joseph and Chris Wright provided timely offense and great defense to complement Valanciunas in the game-breaking run. Things looked to have been put to bed, but a stream of turnovers including a careless one by Quincy Acy off of an in-bounds pass led to a three-point play which pulled the Spurs within two with 15 seconds left.

With the game in danger of being lost, Valanciunas hit two clutch FTs to make it a two-possession game and then cleaned up the glass to seal the win. Overall, Valanciunas negotiated the sporadic but unpredictable double-teams much better in the second half. It should be said that the Spurs didn’t make him a focus of their defense and let Baynes handle him in single coverage. Things got testy between the two as well, when Valanciunas pulled down a rebound and Baynes tried to tear it away. A technical was called on Baynes.

Ross was certainly more active than the previous night, but had his points mostly created for him rather than seeking them. Being a rotation player with a bit of a name, he’s not performing to the level where you’d expect him to, certainly not when given the quality of the competition and the up-and-down style of play, which you’d think would suit him. You expect him to go Donte Green at some point, but judging by the nonchalant manner he’s approaching this tournament, I’m not really expecting it to happen. He got shook a couple times on defense, and the best thing I can say is that his shot looked on point.

It’s not so much his scoring that I have an issue with, it’s that he’s not asserting himself, nor is he demanding the ball, or even attempting to stand out. Having said that, he has been battling some cramps this week, and could be the reason for his complacency.

I’d be remiss to not talk about Quincy Acy, who really is trying to expand his game by adding a jumper. He took a few long-range shots today which were missed, and they seemed completely out of the flow of the game. Then again, this is the time to test out those jumpers and so far it’s not working for him. Other than his size being exploited by Baynes on a couple possessions, his defensive work was good. He’s very active and covers a lot of ground, almost to the point of where he forgets who his original check was.

I’m not sure what Nick Nurse was thinking having him in the game late with the Raptors up two, as the Spurs were definitely looking to foul and having Acy in there was asking for trouble. Luckily Valanciunas got fouled and did the honors at the stripe. Overall for Acy, much like the Spurs game, it was one where he got to try new things like play outside-in on offense.

Chris Wright stood out for the second game in a row with a 6-8 shooting night for 13 points, including a couple key scores in that fourth quarter run that put it away. The same was true for Pickering native, Devoe Joseph, brother of Cory Joseph, who had 7 points on 3-5 shooting. His shot-making in the second half helped the cause, and his play in the open-court was very effective. Given the Raptors wing situation, though, it’s unlikely those guys will make it unless the Raptors shed Fields and Kleiza.

Coby Karl got 32 minutes which must have pleased his father who was sitting in the stands. He’s got zero chance to get an invite, but he did play hard throughout and had 7 assists to show for it. Karl doesn’t do anything particularly well, and is more of a poor man’s Landry Fields (if that makes sense). At 30, he’s probably headed back to Europe for one final stint.

From a Spurs perspective, they certainly have found someone special with the 58th pick and that’s Deshaun Thomas – he had 16 points and 8 rebounds on 6-9 shooting, and looks ready for NBA ball. The Ohio State lefty has NBA range, excellent finishing ability in traffic, and has got the motor needed to get NBA minutes. I’d be surprised if he’s not with the Spurs next season. Canadian Cory Joseph, played 35 minutes and had 16 points, and featured heavily as the Spurs were running a textbook offense for most of the game.

The Spurs were persistent about executing via Joseph, and the Raptors defense handled it well through strong hedging outside the three point line, and quick recovery underneath from the likes of Acy, Valanciunas, and Wright. Raptors point guard, Jordan Taylor, had another poor showing and could not handle any San Antonio pressure and passed up the ball on first chance, leaving the Raptors to look for Valanciunas in the post as the anchor point for their offense. Other than Ross’ first half shooting, Valanciunas was the consistent thread in the offense.

The Raptors held the Spurs to 36% shooting, while scoring at a 48% clip themselves. That more than made up for being out-rebounded 43-32, and saw them tie their summer league record at 1-1. Dwight Buycks did not play.

The Raptors get a day off and then they’re back at it on Tuesday at 6:30 PM EST against the Kings. The venue shifts to COX Pavillion, and we’ll be covering that one as well on @RRGameTime.

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