Spurs grind Raptors

FRANK ZICARELLI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:52 AM ET

It's one thing to play poorly against a sub-standard team such as the L.A. Clippers and give oneself a chance to win.

And it's one thing to pound a sad-sack unit such as the Minnesota Timberwolves.

But when the basketball beast happens to be the reigning champion San Antonio Spurs, the margin of error gets diminished, the challenge more daunting.

Although the Raptors made things interesting late in last night's meeting, the team's early game inefficiencies and season-long flaws ultimately proved Toronto's undoing.

The outcome, a 93-88 win by the visitors from Texas, didn't provide the proper justice on this night.

For the Spurs simply are too tough, physically and mentally, too composed and too polished as Toronto needed its best when its finest could not be summoned.

"That's why they are the world champions,'' assistant coach Mike Evans said in the aftermath of Toronto's 11th home defeat, one more than last year's season total. "They just know how to grind it out.

"They make the appropriate plays and they make the right decisions."

Evans was filling in for head coach Sam Mitchell, who won't be back with the club until after this weekend's all-star break. Mitchell returned to his Georgia home in the wake of a family death.

Jay Triano will assume the head-coaching duties for tomorrow's home date against Vince Carter and the New Jersey Nets.

Evans didn't look out of place, made some key timeouts and was added a smaller deck when T.J. Ford was forced to leave the game when he banged up his right wrist.

It also didn't help matters when Chris Bosh briefly left to take care of a sore knee.

Bosh struggled with his jumper all night and missed an open look from 15 feet that would have cut the Spurs' lead to one point late in the fourth.

San Antonio jumped out to a 9-0 lead before the Raptors could find their breath, let alone rhythm.

To their credit, the Raptors battled back after trailing 55-40 at the break.

While they never led, the game's final minute proved frenetic, but ultimately futile.

The dagger came when Carlos Delfino failed to put a body on Manu Ginobili, San Antonio's big-game swingman who retrieved his own miss and buried both of his free throws to seal the Spurs' win.

"If we want to get to where we want to go, we have to play against teams like this,'' Raptors centre Rasho Nesterovic, an ex-Spur, said.

Nesterovic was asked to come off the bench and defend Tim Duncan in the post as Andrea Bargnani took a seat.

Ginobili and Duncan each had double-doubles. Throw in Fabricio Oberto's numbers and the Spurs' triumvirate outrebounded the entire Raptors by a 35-34 margin.

One of the main reasons why the Raptors were able to hang around was the inspired play of Jose Calderon, who poured in a career-high 27 points.

Calderon never puts himself ahead of his teammates, refuses to get caught up in any numbers and certainly was undeterred by comments, in this case words, expressed by Washington Wizards star guard Gilbert Arenas.

Earlier in the day, Arenas wrote on his blog that Calderon did not warrant all-star consideration, an attack the Spanish sensation dismissed.

"I think he's a great player,'' Calderon said. "Everyone has an opinion. You can write what you want. Whatever he says it's good for him. I have nothing personal."

The only thing personal for Calderon was the seemingly personal goal he had of finding ways to slow down the Spurs.

"I play for my teammates,'' he said. "All I want is for our team to win. Everyday I feel I'm getting better because I'm feeling more comfortable with my teammates."


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