The Rundown: Spurs struggle in first quarter, handle Raptors thereafter

When you look at the final score (116-103) and the fact that they held a 24-point lead at one time, it might be hard to believe that the San Antonio Spurs trailed the Toronto Raptors by 14 points at any time in the Spurs’ victory Tuesday in Toronto.

The Spurs did indeed have a rough start in Toronto, but after one quarter of play, they had a total team effort in which seven players finished in double-figures while the Australian Aron Baynes also had an impactful game on both sides of the ball in the absence of center Tiago Splitter. Here’s the rundown of the Spurs’ victory over the Raptors on Tuesday.

The Offense: Outside of the first quarter where the offense was stagnant at times and the defense was the main issue of the quarter, the Spurs’ offense kicked into high-gear for the remainder of the game as they put up a 35-point quarter in the second and never scored less than 27 points in the third or fourth quarter. The team took care of the ball with an average 14 turnovers while they shot above their season average from the floor (55%) and they had the 3-point ball going in as they made 13-of their 23 3-pointers from the outside. As for the soccer-like passing system that they have, the players got the ball moving as they threw 30 assists on their 45 made baskets, meaning they assisted on 67% of their made baskets, 6% higher than their season average coming into Tuesday. The Spurs’ offense was so efficient and productive, no player had to play more than 29 minutes on the night.

Manu – 16 points, 9 assists, 5 rebounds

Manu Ginobili led the charge with 16 points and nine assists while shooting 50% from the field. Since the first quarter where Ginobili immediately came in and made two 3-pointers, he showed his ability to score not just from the outside, but by driving into the paint and finishing with “Manu” layups. He also found his teammates throughout the night with some no-look passes for assists.

Baynes – 14 points, 6 rebounds, 4 offensive rebounds

We’ll get to Baynes’ defense in a bit, but offensively he found ways to make himself very productive throughout the night not solely based on his jumper. Baynes was very aggressive in crashing the boards on the offensive glass for extra attempts and he may even make the highlight reel with his dunk when Jonas Valanciunas was cheating and playing him too high at the top of the key. With Splitter out, it was Baynes who provided steady production for the offense in the paint.

Green – 14 points, 2-of-4 from 3-point range

With the Spurs firing the 3-point ball at 57%, Green was able to break out of his recent shooting slump by scoring 14 points in the contest and what was interesting was that Green found other ways to score on offense and make an impact rather than just relying on his outside shot. He was driving more and cutting for easier baskets and he even drew contact to shoot two free throws. On one play, he really made the ‘tear drop’ seem like a ‘sky drop’ as he let the ball go in the air and it soared almost as high as the backboard and went in.

Tim and Tony – 29 points combined

Tim Duncan scored 14 points in the match and made the baskets he needed to make near the rim. His five misses mainly came off very flat pick-and-pop jumpers. Duncan also collected seven rebounds. Tony Parker had a rough shooting night (6-of-16), but with so many of his teammates in rhythm, he didn’t have to be the lone savior. Along with his 15 points, he also threw six assists in really just three quarters of playing time. Parker and Duncan never played in the fourth quarter because the score was so much out of reach.

The Foreign Legion – 61 combined points, 17 combined assists

The Spurs’ foreign bench unit plus Matt Bonner combined for 61 points and 17 assists on the night and with the Raptors being short of players due to recent trades, the Spurs’ depth was a key prevailing factor. Along with Baynes and Ginobili, Marco Belinelli scored 12 points off the bench and dished four assists, while Patty Mills also got hot early in the fourth quarter on his way to 11 points in just 16 minutes.

The Defense: Outside of the atrocious first quarter, where the Spurs allowed the Raptors to: score 36 points, score 14 points in the paint, make six transition points, shoot 63%, and allow Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas to score 10 points apiece, the Spurs’ defense was where it wanted be for the remainder of the game. The first key was limiting Valanciunas, and Baynes did just that in the second quarter, as he held Valanciunas scoreless from the time he was on the floor (Valanciunas would score four points late in the game, but clearly not when the game was close). Baynes had the physical size and stature to disrupt Valanciunas and take him away from being a weapon for the Raptors. The Spurs’ defense clamped down on the Raptors significantly in the second quarter where they held Toronto to just 17 points in the quarter. After the half in the third, the Spurs would again keep the clamps down in only allowing the Raptors to score 21 points. The Raptors finished shooting 46% from the field but did give the ball away 19 times in the game.

Where they stand: With the win, the Spurs improved to 16-4 on the season, 8-2 on the road, they won their 9th game by 10 or more points, they are 9-0 against teams that are below .500, and 8-1 against the Eastern Conference. They also hold the highest Net Rating in the NBA at +10.1. They’re 4th in offensive rating at 106.0 points per 100 possessions, and their defense continues to rank 2nd in the league at 95.9 points per 100 possessions.

Up Next: The Spurs will play a back-to-back on Wednesday as they travel to Milwaukee to face the Bucks. Former Spur Gary Neal might not play in the game against his old team as he was out in the Bucks’ game against the Chicago Bulls Tuesday with left foot plantar fasciitis. The Bucks are currently last place in the Eastern Conference at 5-16. They have the league’s lowest offensive rating at 94.2 points per 100 possessions, the 7th worst defense at 103.9 points per 100 possessions, and have the second lowest Net Rating in the NBA at -9.7.

Paul Garcia

About Paul Garcia

Paul is a San Antonio Spurs credentialed media member for Project Spurs. He covered the 2013 NBA All-Star Game in Houston, TX, and the 2013 and 2014 NBA Finals. Paul has been featured on WOAI, Fox 29, and numerous nationwide radio shows.