SAN ANTONIO -- Deep in the heart of Texas, the Raptors showed they had heart after nearly getting run out of town. Too bad they had no answer for Tim Duncan.
With the reigning two-time MVP abusing the Raptors in the paint, drawing double teams and getting favourable calls and non-calls, the Raptors could not overcome Duncan's 23rd double-double (30 points, 13 rebounds).
He was double trouble in a lot of ways.
The Raptors almost fought back from a miserable first half but it was Duncan's presence that fuelled San Antonio's 73-70 win. Toronto's inability to control three Spurs' miss down the stretch and Donyell Marshall unable to knock down a three-ball off of a good look that would have forced overtime also did in the Raptors.
With their loss, the Raptors return home 0-2 from Texas and losers of four in a row after winning five in succession following their blockbuster with the Chicago Bulls.
But it was their grit and ability to defend in the second half that should provide some comfort for the Raptors.
Duncan not getting whistled for blatantly fouling Chris Bosh, some costly turnovers and not controlling the board didn't sit well for the Raptors.
"When you play the defending world champions in their house when they are at the top of their game, you have to be letter perfect,'' Raptors coach Kevin O'Neill said. "We had our chances. It looked like Chris Bosh was fouled. It's a tough loss."
For the first time since their makeover, the Raptors were completely out of sync in the decisive first half and could not generate any offence against the defensive minded Spurs, who extended their win streak to eight games.
San Antonio held the Raptors to nine second-quarter points, by far the lowest total by Toronto's new look in a period, and led 41-28 at the break. It marked the fourth time this season Toronto scored fewer than 30 points at intermission and first for the revamped Raptors.
Duncan abused the Raptors and scored 20 points on 9-for-11 shooting in 20 first-half minutes. When they came with double teams, the Raptors were vulnerable on the perimeter.
Duncan scored only 10 points on 3-for-11 shooting in the second half, when the Raptors emerged as the better team and outscored the Spurs 42-32.
The Raptors outrebounded the Spurs for the game but there were three long rebounds off of San Antonio misses that loomed large.
Still, the Raptors had possession with a chance to tie it and they executed to perfection a play that got Marshall an open look along the right baseline.
"I thought we did a heck of a job but it's unfortunate we couldn't get those three long rebounds in the end,'' O'Neill said. "We had a tough trip but we played well (last night) over long stretches and it's my hope that we start to find our identity again. We're starting to dig in and doing good things as a team again."
The Raptors have been playing by the seat of their pants since their trade.
"We'll be okay and once we get on the same page we'll be very, very dangerous,'' Alvin Williams said.
Marshall led the Raptors with 19 points.