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NBA San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich

Spurs (15-4) at Raptors (7-12): Pregame Report

Last year’s NBA Finalist San Antonio Spurs are 15-4 this season and there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that this team is much better than the 7-12 Toronto Raptors.  It’s not that the Spurs are unbeatable or the Raptors should just award San Antonio the win and head on up to the practice gym, anything can happen on any given night in the NBA, but Toronto doesn’t have the experience or the talent to matchup with the Spurs if everything goes according to script.

The Spurs are scoring 101.8 points per game while holding their opponents to an NBA third best 93.1.  They boast the league’s second highest field goal percentage (48.8), fourth best three-point field goal percentage (39.7).  They don’t foul or send opponents to the free throw line very often and only 1 player even averages over 2 personal fouls per game.  Effective and disciplined, the Spurs have continuity and chemistry.  Until this group falls apart due to old age, not much is going to change.

The only Spurs ‘weakness’ is they have 5 players over 30 years of age and only 2 players under 23, but based on how the ‘old’ guys are playing, that isn’t much of a handicap.

TOR_Gay_RudyThe Raptors could be considered short-handed heading into tonight’s game, but only by those who don’t really follow this team.  Toronto traded Rudy Gay, Aaron Gray and Quincy Acy to the Kings on Monday and then waived D.J. Augustin.  However, only Gay was a regular in the rotation and Landry Fields started in his place on Sunday as all 3 players to be traded were held out of the lineup and the Raptors beat the Lakers in Los Angeles.

TOR_Fields_LandryAlthough the Raptors might miss Gay’s scoring on any given night, he was shooting 18.6 shots per game at 38.8 percent from the field, so if they can find a similar number of shots elsewhere, scoring as a team shouldn’t decline and Fields can provide a similar level of defense at the small forward spot.  For all practical purposes, the team’s scoring at 97.7 points per game and 98.4 points given up shouldn’t be adversely affected by the loss of Gay based on how he played so far this season.

Greivis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson, John Salmons and Chuck Hayes are not required to arrive in Toronto until Wednesday and are not expected to play Tuesday night.  Vasquez will represent a significant upgrade at backup point guard and may foreshadow a future deal that sends starter Kyle Lowry out of town.  Patterson represents the type of young player President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri has looked to add to his roster this season and will get a shot at earning minutes as a backup power forward.  Salmons and Hayes tenure in Toronto may be short-lived, but this team could use their veteran presence, even if they never set foot in a game.

What happens to the Raptors in the second game after trading Gay with all the ensuing rumors about virtually every other player on the roster won’t be known until after it starts.  However, if Sunday’s contest was any indication, the Raptors won’t look all that different than they have all season – minus the ball sticking on the three-point line as Gay tried to figure out exactly what he was supposed to be doing as a point forward.

The Spurs should still win.  The Raptors should still lose.  How the game actually plays out in between is a little harder to forecast as the Raptors try to figure out who they are now – again.

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.