Gameday: Raptors @ Spurs, Jan. 3

The only Superstar who believed in the city of Toronto, the man who wouldn’t allow other teams a chance at him. DeMar DeRozan, forever Toronto’s greatest ambassador, will play against the Raptors for the first time in his career. Employed by the 21-17 Spurs, DeRozan looks to will the mid-range obsessed team from Texas to a victory. Hoping to uphold his comment about dropping ’40 or 50′ on the Raptors, from his “How Hungry are You?” episode with potential All-Star Serge Ibaka.

Oddly enough, Kawhi Leonard poured in his career high of 45-points on the 1-year anniversary of DeRozan’s 52-point explosion against the Bucks. The same Bucks who have taken sole-possession of first place in the NBA. A spot that the Raptors had a firm grip on for what seemed like months. The main reason the Raptors have lost their grip-hold on the Eastern Conference, is the health of Kyle Lowry, who is doubtful to play against his best buddy DeRozan. Without the friendship angle to talk about, this game really shakes out to Leonard vs. DeRozan. As if there was no room for feelings at all.

The Spurs will look for DeRozan to dissect the Raptors in the pick n’ roll, and will artificially create separation with plenty of DHO’s. All the while, LaMarcus Aldridge will look to pound Ibaka into the hardwood in a similar fashion to Nikola Vucevic. Although, Ibaka had a good enough time defending Aldridge last year. We’ll all have to watch with our eyes wide open, hoping that Leonard stops DeRozan, but in a way that isn’t’ emasculating. Personally, I’ve seen Leonard rip the basketball out of too many grown mens hands, and enjoyed it. However, there’s no joy to be had if that happens to DeRozan. I’m hoping for some funnelling into the help-defense and a Spurs offense that operates off the pass from DeRozan.

If we bear witness to a full game of Leonard-DeRozan ‘mano e mano’ type play, who knows what that ends up looking like. The Spurs have been very comfortable letting their stars lead the way this year, and December was the best month yet. Earning a sterling 11-5 record while creating a massive, double-digit net rating. Not to mention this game is in San Antonio, and the Spurs play extremely well at home.

How then, do the Raptors guard DeRozan? One might think back to the playoffs and suggest you go under the screen, and you leave him working in the long mid-range. It’s not like he’s going to push Leonard under the basket, or even shoot over him with ease. Play vocal defense and make sure that you don’t get stuck when the inevitable re-screen comes. Or do you switch freely with Pascal Siakam and Danny Green as the other defenders likely to draw time on him? For DeRozan’s sake, I hope they choose the switching… for the Raptors, I would let Leonard see just how much of a suppressant he can be.

Rudy Gay is questionable for tonight, which introduces a wonderfully fun wrinkle: Siakam and Jakob Poeltl could line-up against each other at the power forward spot. I imagine it would be pretty fun to see Poeltl slam Siakam under the basket and for Siakam to dance around him in the open floor. Lots of fun and wholesome things could happen in this game.

This game won’t be nearly the spectacle it’s promised to be when DeRozan comes back to Toronto, but the wing matchup creates plenty of entertainment value. Especially when you consider Leonard might be in a very hostile arena. If Ibaka can do a decent job on Aldridge, this game could be a wonderful matchup between two great players. Both of which the Raptors fanbase has an outpouring of love for.

A throwback from Josh Lewenberg:

Game Info

TV: Sportsnet One | Radio: TheFan590 | Tipoff: 8 pm EST.  NBA betting odds for the game area available.

Raptors Updates

Jonas Valanciunas (thumb) is out for another 3-4 weeks and Kyle Lowry (back) is doubtful for tonight’s game.

PG: Fred VanVleet, Delon Wright, Lorenzo Brown

SG: Danny Green, Norman Powell, CJ Miles, Malachi Richardson

SF: Kawhi Leonard, OG Anunoby

PF: Pascal Siakam

C: Serge Ibaka, Greg Monroe, Chris Boucher

Spurs Updates

Dejounte Murray (ACL) is out indefinitely and Rudy Gay (wrist) is questionable.

PG: Bryn Forbes, Derrick White

SG: DeMar DeRozan, Patty Mills, Lonnie Walker

SF: Davis Bertans, Marco Belinelli, Quincy Pondexter

PF: Jakob Poeltl, Dante Cunningham

C: LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol

I’m hoping for a Raptors win and a DeRozan 40-point game. I know that’s incredibly selfish, but it’s where I’m at. Do you guys want a big game from DeRozan, do you want Leonard to lock him up? The Spurs have been good lately, winning this one without Lowry would be nice.

Have a blessed day.

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