After two relatively easy games to ramp things up for the season, a 2-0 Toronto Raptors squad begins a tough six-game trip on Monday, visiting the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs are down an MVP candidate in Kawhi Leonard – the third consecutive game already in which the Raptors have avoided a key opposing player – but the Raptors are down a starting center in Jonas Valanciunas to help level the playing field.
It’s the beginning of a tough two weeks that will tell the Raptors a lot about who they are this year, how far along in the chemistry building process they are, and exactly what they can be against tough competition and in the face of something more challenging than the Chicago Bulls and Joel Embiid-less Philadephia 76ers at home. They are important lessons for the team’s development. There may be difficult nights during the stretch, though.
The game tips off at 8:30 on TSN 2 and Sportsnet 590. You can check out the full game preview here.
While there still hasn’t been any official word that Jonas Valanciunas is out Monday – he was listed as TBD in the game notes – most context clues suggest he’ll sit after spraining his ankle Saturday. On the bright side, he confirmed at shootaround that the injury isn’t too serious (we’d previously reported he doesn’t need a walking boot or crutches). He also said he’s hopeful to play on the trip, which would be one heck of a swerve if he ended up playing in this one.
Valanciunas confirms at shootaround ankle injury not serious. Fact that he is on the trip suggests he'll be playing before team returns home
— Mike Ganter (@Mike_Ganter) October 23, 2017
Assuming Valanciunas hasn’t been magically healed, Lucas Nogueira seems a safe bet to start. Nogueira, Jakob Poeltl, and Serge Ibaka will soak up the minutes at center, and any time with Ibaka at the five should open up additional minutes for OG Anunoby and/or Pascal Siakam. Those lineups could be pretty fun and very switchy defensively, though Dwane Casey will need to pick his spots if LaMarcus Aldridge is out with another natural big.
UPDATE: Valanciunas is out and Nogueira will start, per Eric Smith of Sportsnet.
Everything else should stay mostly to form as we’ve seen it through two games. This might be the first outing in which Casey really needs to be careful of going to an all-bench unit – they were slightly outscored Saturday after a raucous start – and Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan could be in for their first big-minute nights of the year.
PG: Kyle Lowry, Delon Wright, Fred VanVleet
SG: DeMar DeRozan
SF: Norman Powell, C.J. Miles, Alfonzo McKinnie
PF: Serge Ibaka, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Bruno Caboclo
C: Lucas Nogueira, Jakob Poeltl
OUT: Jonas Valanciunas
905: Malcolm Miller, Lorenzo Brown
San Antonio does a nice job getting out ahead of injury statuses, and so we learned Sunday that Kawhi Leonard won’t play in this one. Leonard has been dealing with a quad injury and is yet to play this year, but the Spurs have continued their recent trend of dominating without him, beating Minnesota and Chicago early on. They’ve also been without Tony Parker, who is aiming for a potential return in December following offseason quad surgery.
Nobody else is on the injury report, so expect the Spurs to look fairly similar to how they looked in their first two games, using a 10-man rotation that occasionally skews smaller with three guards on the floor
PG: Dejounte Murray, Patty Mills, Derrick White
SG: Danny Green, Manu Ginobili, Bryn Forbes Brandon Paul
SF: Kyle Anderson, Rudy Gay
PF: LaMarcus Aldridge, Davis Bertans
C: Pau Gasol, Joffrey Lauvergne
OUT: Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker
Austin: Darrun Hilliard, Matt Costello
- Today was the start of training camp for Raptors 905. Over at Raptors905.com, I explained how the 16-man group was put together.
- Also relevant to the start of 905 camp: Lorenzo Brown and Malcolm Miller can only be with the Raptors for 45 days between today and the end of the G-League regular season. They’re both with the 905 now and probably will be for the immediate future, barring injury. Miller is closing in on clearance for full-court 5-on-5, too.
- The Raptors are obviously away from home for a while, but later this month we’re giving away another pair of tickets with InTheActionSeats.com:
— Raptors Republic (@raptorsrepublic) October 21, 2017
- Kyle Lowry admitted to San Antonio Express News at shootaround today that he was interested in joining the Spurs this summer. That shouldn’t come as a shock considering Lowry was an unrestricted free agent and the Spurs are a championship-caliber organization. What is a minor surprise is that Lowry said it never reached the point of a conversation between the sides, as “it was real for me but it wasn’t real for them.” Nobody should take Lowry looking at other destinations in free agency the wrong way. It’s what free agents do.
- Steph Curry was not suspended for his vicious assault on an official, the NBA, and common human decency as a whole and was instead fined $50,000 for chucking a mouthguard. Any Raptors fans holding out a glimmer of hope the team’s string of missing an opponent’s top players would continue Wednesday will be sad to hear this news.
The Raptors opened as 3-point underdogs and the line has stayed right around that mark. The over-under plummeted from 206 to 201.5 over the course of the day.