Some games on the schedule have been a drag because of injuries, protocols, or simply the Raptors record this season. Not this one though.
DeMar DeRozan faces the Raptors for the sixth time (that many already?) in his career. Deebo holds a 3-2 record against the Raps, and tends to save something for his old squad. Let’s break down the previous five matchups.
Game 1 (Jan 3, 2019): 21 pts, 14 reb, 11 ast, Spurs win 125-107
This is still DeRozan’s only triple-double in his 12 year, 923 game career (including playoffs). It doesn’t get any more special than that, coming vs the team that traded you in your first meeting. This one had a little bit of old DeMar with a huge slam, refined DeMar with polished slithery moves to the rim, and new DeMar with improved playmaking. San Antonio was also ready for Kawhi Leonard’s return and jumped all over the Raptors. Kyle Lowry did not play in this game due to a sore back.
Game 2 (Feb 22, 2019): 23 pts, 4 reb, 8 ast, Raptors win 120-117
The most memorable game of the five. This was DeRozan’s emotional return to Toronto, where he received the biggest ovation by a former Raptor ever. The only person that can hypothetically top that is if there was ever a Kyle Lowry return moment. This went almost as well as a Raptors fan could hope. Toronto won, DeMar played well and had a vintage 360 layup…..
…..however, you probably wanted to see anyone but DeRozan make this crucial game changing turnover, forced by who he was traded for.
Game 3 (Jan 12, 2020): 25 pts, 8 reb, 4 ast, Spurs win 105-104
DeMar return #2 to Toronto. He got another long ovation and paid the Raptors back for stealing the previous game. San Antonio trailed by double digits until this happened.
The freeze frame of Chris Boucher on the ground looking like he had his soul snatched out of his body is still funny. Allowing the Spurs to escape with a 36-22 fourth quarter and the win? Not so much.
Game 4 (Jan 26, 2020): 14 pts, 6 reb, 7 ast, Raptors win 110-106
Not a fun one to talk about because this game tipped off in San Antonio a couple hours after Kobe Bryant’s death was reported. Nobody was into it, although Pascal Siakam had 25 points in the first quarter. Toronto won because somebody had to. Let’s move on.
Game 5 (Dec 26, 2020): 27 pts, 5 reb, 8 ast, Spurs win 119-114
DeRozan dusted off the rarely used three point shot (actual threes, not the DeMar foot on the line special). DeMar has only made 34 threes in 190 regular season games as a Spur. Three of those came in this game alone, two of them down the stretch where DeRozan was clutch leading the Spurs to victory in the second game of this season.
This has mostly been DeMar’s role in San Antonio. He’s mastered a balance of when to be a facilitator for the young budding core of Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Keldon Johnson and Lonnie Walker, and when to take over for key baskets down the stretch. It happened again on Sunday vs the Mavs.
Overall, DeRozan is averaging his typical 21.2 points per game this season, but his assists have reached a career-high of 7.1. The Spurs have used a different approach to DeMar’s game compared to his final season with the Raptors. Part of the 2017-2018 culture reset included DeRozan rounding out his game by taking much more three pointers. DeRozan responded by shooting 89-287 (31 percent) from deep that season. In San Antonio, DeMar has almost completely abandoned that part of his game again and instead has mastered his already elite midrange game. DeRozan is shooting 50.1 percent from the field as a Spur, averaging a shade under half the threes he attempted in Toronto (0.8 vs 1.7), and has elevated to one of the best playmakers in the league. Deebo hasn’t made a three in 13 games (0-7), but who would be shocked if he’s been saving a couple for the Raptors again?
The Raptors are looking to split the DeRozan bowl for the third straight season. San Antonio currently sits ninth in the west (26-26), right in the thick of the play-in race. Probably in his words, DeMar is looking to walk out of Tampa “four and six.”
Tip-Off: 7:30pm EDT | TV: TSN 1/4 | Radio: Sportsnet 590
Lowry will miss this game for rest/toe. Gary Trent Jr. (ankle) is out. DeAndre’ Bembry is out with hamstring tightness. Paul Watson (protocols) returns after missing the last 10 games. Fred VanVleet will serve his suspension tonight, so expect him back soon. Jalen Harris (hip) is still out.
PG: Malachi Flynn
SG: Rodney Hood, Paul Watson Jr.
SF: OG Anunoby, Yuta Watanabe, Stanley Johnson
PF: Pascal Siakam, Khem Birch
C: Chris Boucher, Freddie Gillespie, Aron Baynes
Jakob Poeltl and Rudy Gay are also facing the Raptors again. Trey Lyles (ankle) and Gorgui Dieng (shoulder) have been ruled out.
PG: Dejounte Murray, Patty Mills, Tre Jones
SG: Derrick White, Lonnie Walker IV, Quinndary Weatherspoon
SF: DeMar DeRozan, Devin Vassell, Keita Bates-Diop
PF: Keldon Johnson, Rudy Gay, Luka Samanic
C: Jakob Poeltl, Drew Eubanks
The Spurs are favoured by 5.5 points. Over/Under is 222.