The Raptors were going toe-to-toe with the league-leading Spurs and used a strong third quarter to pull ahead by three, but things came undone in a hurry in the final 12 minutes.
The veteran Western Conference squad quickly ripped off a 15-4 run to regain an eight-point advantage and went on to outscore the Raptors 30-16 the rest of the way -- holding Toronto to 33% shooting in the process. A tough lesson for team that's got a ways to go in terms of consistently playing a full 48 minutes and using defence to grind out wins.
If we're going to compile a list of random Raptor killers this season, DeJuan Blair belongs near the top. The Spurs' starting centre matched a career-high with 28 points -- 16 of which came in the fourth quarter -- and added 11 rebounds with two blocks. Blair plays a limited, blue-collar game, but it has killed the Raptors to the tune of 50 points in two matchups this season.
"I play hard, I know that there are players way taller than me," said Blair post-game. "I am one of the smallest centers in the league, but at the same time I think that I have one of the biggest hearts in the league."
Leandro Barbosa didn't just lead the bench scoring effort on Wednesday night, he WAS the bench scoring effort. The Blur was the only Raptors reserve to score with 20 points on the night, the 23rd time he's led the team in scoring off the bench this season and his 19th double-digit scoring effort in his last 24 games.
There were still some signs of rust coming off an injury -- it took him 16 shots to hit 20 points -- but as he showed in the fourth quarter, his ability to generate his own offence is crucial to this team.
"In the fourth quarter, we knew they were going to crank it up. They had strategically rested their guys and came back in the fourth and it made it difficult for us to score. Then we had played extended minutes trying to get back in it and keep the lead. I was pleased with the way we played for three quarters. I thought for three quarters of basketball we were pretty good."
- Jay Triano, on Wednesday's result
Fri., Feb. 11 vs. Portland
7:00 PM ET, TSN, FAN590
The Raptors continue their four-game homestand against LaMarcus Aldridge and the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday. Despite an onslaught of injuries to several key players, the Blazers remain very much alive in the Western Conference playoff race -- sitting at 28-24 in the eighth spot. Portland had little difficulty handling the Raptors in a 97-84 home win way back on Nov. 6.
|26||Games Andrea Bargnani has led Raptors in scoring this season|
|4||Consecutive games with 10+ rebounds for Amir Johnson|
|8||Season low in turnovers for the Raptors|
|70-40||Points in the paint favouring the Spurs|
|17||Games with 10+ assists for Jose Calderon this season|
|"With that kind of team, the best in the NBA so far, you cannot slip. We slipped a little bit and that's what gave them the opportunity to beat us."|
- Leandro Barbosa on the fourth quarter
|"I guess when they play a team that has a record like ours they are going to be pretty motivated to get after you, it's a motivational thing and they did that tonight. They did a good job."|
- Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich on the Raptors' effort
|"They have been in these situations plenty of times and they know what to do and they definitely did it when it got down to crunch time."|
- DeMar DeRozan, on the veteran Spurs