3 Things To Learn From Raptors Vs. Spurs (A.K.A Kawhi Vs. Demar)
It's no secret that the expectations for this game were through the roof. Everyone knew it was going to be emotional; the villain returning back to his old stomping grounds attempting to show that he's better off in his new situation vs. the fan favourite defending his new teams home.
Unfortunately for Raptors fans, the second most anticipated game on the schedule had a bittersweet taste to it. We'll start with the negative, the Raptors were never in this game; they were down 19 after the first quarter and seemed out of it after about three minutes. On the bright side, the loss came at the hands of the most beloved Raptors of all time. Obviously, the game could've been better had the Raptors been healthy; especially with the inevitable Lowry vs. DeRozan one-on-one (talk about emotions) which would have led to a much, much more competitive contest.
Despite all of the complaining I've just done, there is stuff to learn from this game.
The Raptors Miss DeRozan's Playmaking
This is especially true when their lead ball handler and creator, is injured. And no, this doesn't mean they should undo the Kawhi/Derozan blockbuster. It just means the Raptors need another talented facilitator. If there's been one thing they have had issues with is their ball movement.
The Raptors had a total of 21 assists in this game while the Spurs were led by DeRozan's 11 to get a total of 32 assists. This has been a consistent trend with Lowry out for an extended period which causes some concern. The Raptors Assist/Turnover ratio is 14th in the league (5th last year) and their assists per field goals made are 24th (12th last year). DeRozan is averaging a career-high 6.4 assists this season and has a very respectable AST/TO ratio of 2.7.
It would've been nice to have a guy like Demar in the lineup to create space for others and move the ball in what was a stagnant offensive performance
Valanciunas Is More Important Than Most People Think
JVis not the All-Star big man most people (including myself) would like him to be but, he has been having a career year on the offensive end of the floor. Per 36 minutes, he's averaging over four more points per game, has a much higher assist percentage than years past and his shooting percentages are up all around. Because of his efficiency, JV has a top 10 true shooting percentage and a top 20 effective field goal percentage.
Not to mention the fact that he allows the Nick Nurse to play him and Ibaka to their strengths. This would have come in handy against a big man like LaMarcus Aldridge. Like expected, Ibaka had a fairly rough go at a much bigger Aldridge only mustering up 14 points on 45.5% shooting with 1 assist, 6 rebounds while committing five fouls on the defensive end. Aldridge was able to get 23 points on 71.4% shooting to go along with five assists. Defensively, not much would have changed but being able to put a bigger body on Aldridge would have made him work a little harder on both ends which would have resulted in a less efficient night from him.
Raptors Look Uneasy On Big Stage
Now, you can really poke holes in this argument and I'm not 100% I believe it but there is something to be said. This was undoubtedly the most hostile environment the Raptors will have to play in all season and by far the biggest stage. This was their moment to step up and win a game for their superstar player. They ended up doing the opposite and kind of embarrassed themselves in the process.
The Raptors starters were dominated by the Spurs and provided no support for the bench players to contribute. This probably doesn't mean anything because it's easy for a coach as good as Popovich to dismantle a team as injured as the Raptors have been. Either way, it wasn't a really good sign as Kawhi, Ibaka and Green were all worse than -20 and no one could really hit a jump shot to save their lives.
There's not a whole lot of analyzing to do seeing as the Raptors sucked and didn't play like themselves. The injuries are obviously catching up to them as they haven't quite looked the same the past few weeks but I'm sure with the important games this weekend they'll be able to ramp up their intensity and get used to playing meaningful games again.