Hard to figure these Raptors out. A night earlier, against a team without three of its top four players and on a three-game losing skid, Toronto could not match Boston's physicality or work ethic.
One night later facing a San Antonio Spurs team that is in the midst of what is becoming an annual push back toward to the top of the Western Conference standings with 11 wins in its past 13 matches, the Raptors outworked, outshot, and ultimately outlasted the Spurs in a closer-than-it-should-have-been 91-86 win.
The Raps did so without the services of Hedo Turkoglu who was unable to answer the bell because of a cold.
“It was one of those grind-it-out games,” Raps head coach Jay Triano said. “Every possession was a fight and a battle. We played aggressive and hard.”
Antoine Wright started in Turkoglu’s place and all but shut down Richard Jefferson, one of the more potent Spurs.
Through three quarters, Jefferson had just six points and was never a factor finishing the game with 12.
Much more of a factor from a Spurs standpoint was the team’s inability to hit free throws. The Spurs went to the line 27 times and converted just 16 of them. The Raptors, meanwhile, made good on 24 of their 27 attempts.
Perhaps contributing to the outcome was Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s decision not to start Tim Duncan.
“He’s played a lot of minutes,” Popovich said of Duncan. “ He played more than we wanted (Saturday in Washington). We wanted to have him in the fourth quarter, rather than the first.”
Having said that, Popovich suggested it’s not something his opponents should expect again any time soon.
Jarrett Jack was asked if he saw any disrespect in the decision not to start Duncan.
“No, because I played in the Western Conference for three years and coach Popovich is kind of a quirky guy,” Jack said. “He might do things just because it’s Tuesday.”
Even with the Spurs shooting like a grade school team, this one came right down to the wire.
Fittingly, it was Chris Bosh who had just become the franchises all-time leading scorer a quarter earlier who put this one to bed with a rebound on a Duncan miss at one end followed by a lay-up at the other end over the same Duncan.
Tony Parker led all scorers with 23, one more than Bosh, and that played right into the Raptors hands.
“We weren’t going to run two or three guys at Tony Parker and hopefully stop him,” Triano said. “If he made mid-range jumpers we were going to accept that. That was our game plan, to make him beat us.”