The Toronto Raptors are still searching for their first win of the season.
Following their loss to the New Orleans Pelicans to open their season, the Raptors dropped a close one to the San Antonio Spurs, losing by a final score of 119-114.
DeMar DeRozan led the way for the Spurs with 27 points and eight assists. Patty Mills provided a spark off the bench for the Spurs with 21 points while Dejounte Murray recorded a triple-double with 11 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
Fred VanVleet scored a team-high 27 points for the Raptors and Boucher flirted with his own triple-double, but it wasn't enough.
For more on the game, here are some quick thoughts...
1. Diamonds in the rough
An impressive note from Raptors PR by way of TSN's Josh Lewenberg: Toronto's opening night roster included 11 players who have spent time in the G League, the most in the NBA. The roster also featured seven players who went undrafted in Fred VanVleet, Aron Baynes, Matt Thomas, Chris Boucher, Terence Davis, Yuta Watanabe and Paul Watson.
That front office and coaching staff is no joke.
2. Once teammates, always friends
All the feels.
Lowry & DeRozan reconnect pregame! 🤝 pic.twitter.com/xlHQ4HH3ST- NBA Canada (@NBACanada) December 27, 2020
3. The Redick transformation has begun
Apparently Matt Thomas spent some time working out with J.J. Redick in the offseason.
It shows on this play:
You already know that's AUTOMATIC pic.twitter.com/1IPGT7fkJJ- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) December 27, 2020
That's not something we saw much of from Thomas last season. According to NBA.com, 77 of the 97 3s he attempted as a rookie came without a dribble. He made a high percentage of the 3s he did take following a dribble, but it wasn't on much of a sample size.
If those pull-ups become a bigger part of his game this season, it'll take Thomas to another level.
4. Kyle Lowry has some competition
Between Kyle Lowry and Aron Baynes, the Raptors have two of the best charge drawers in the league.
According to NBA.com, Lowry led the league in charges drawn last season with 34 while Baynes ranked seventh with 16 charges drawn. For context, that was more than Marc Gasol (8) and Serge Ibaka (0) combined in far less minutes.
Baynes drew a charge against the Spurs, his first of the season.
A bit of everything from @aronbaynes pic.twitter.com/jMz0j6gPVR- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) December 27, 2020
As if Lowry wasn't enough, teams now have to worry about Baynes sliding over to draw charges as well.
5. Chris Boucher bringing it off the bench
Boucher was a big reason why this game was still close down the stretch.
Baynes started the game at centre for the Raptors, but it was Boucher who closed it before Nick Nurse started making substitutions for rebounding. Boucher earned the opportunity with his play on both ends of the court, finishing with 22 points on 9-for-13 shooting from the field, 10 rebounds (four of which came on the offensive glass) and seven blocks off the bench.
That almost doubled Boucher's previous career high for blocks in a game (4).
.@chrisboucher: 17 Pts | 8 Reb | 4 Blk- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) December 27, 2020
Keep ballin' young fella pic.twitter.com/VCEKD6f5gw
The Raptors signed Boucher to a two-year, $13.5 million contract in the offseason in the hope that he could help fill some of the void left by Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol.
It's still early, but Boucher is well on his way to living up to that contract.
6. DeMar DeRozan does it again
DeRozan continues his strong play against his former team.
This marked the fifth time DeRozan has played against the Raptors since he was traded to the Spurs. Here's what he did in the previous four games:
- Jan. 3, 2019: 21 points, 14 rebounds, 11 assists in a Spurs win.
- Feb. 22, 2019: 23 points, eight assists, four rebounds in a Raptors win.
- Jan. 12, 2020: 25 points, eight rebounds, four assists in a Spurs win.
- Jan. 26, 2020: 14 points, seven assists, six rebounds in a Raptors win.
As for Saturday's game, DeRozan did a little bit of everything yet again with 27 points, eight assists and five rebounds. He shot an efficient 10-for-17 from the field and even attempted four 3-pointers, of which he made three. The last time DeRozan attempted four or more 3-pointers in a game was Dec. 6, 2019. The last time he made at least three 3-pointers in a game was ... Dec. 6, 2019.
DeRozan took over down the stretch, scoring 10 of his team-high 27 points in the fourth quarter. That included a 3-pointer with just over a minute to go to bring the Spurs within a point.
7. LaMarcus Aldridge saves the day
Aldridge only scored 12 points, but he had the biggest basket of the game, coming up with an offensive rebound and a putback with 29.9 seconds remaining to give the Spurs the lead.
Battle of the boards.@aldridge_12 | #GoSpursGo pic.twitter.com/Mj5jG2TqkX- San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) December 27, 2020
8. The Raptors need more from Norman Powell
It's been a bit of a struggle to start the season for Powell.
After scoring 12 points on 2-for-11 shooting from the field against the Pelicans, Powell was held scoreless in 17 minutes against the Spurs, missing all five of his shot attempts.
"We need his points production, that's kinda what he is, he's our offensive sub off the bench," Nick Nurse said after the game, per TSN's Josh Lewenberg. "He'll be fine."
Powell played a big role in Toronto's success last season. Not only did he average a career-best 16.0 points per game, he stepped up time and time again when the Raptors were down a starter due to injury.
The Raptors can only hope Powell will get back on track sooner rather than later.
9. What's next
The Raptors are back in action on Tuesday, Dec. 29 when they take on the Philadelphia 76ers, who are 2-0 to start the season with wins coming over the Washington Wizards and New York Knicks.
It should be a good one. Catch you then.
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