SAN ANTONIO – The AT&T Center turned into the Roman Coliseum on Thursday and it was only fitting the Toronto Raptors wore their red uniforms.
The fans were out in droves to boo and chant at Kawhi Leonard, a player, who only five years ago led the San Antonio Spurs to the NBA Championship. And at the end of the night, the fans got exactly what they paid for.
A career night from DeMar DeRozan led the Spurs to a 125-107 rout of the Raptors (28-12) in front of a sellout crowd that showed up early and stayed late.
The win is the third straight for the Spurs, who are 11-2 in their last 13 games. It was also the first time that Leonard has returned to San Antonio since the drama that led to his trade to Toronto last July.
“We’ve never concentrated on one game,” Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said. “We are always looking to get better and executing and competing for 48 minutes more than your opponent. It doesn’t matter who we play.”
Leonard received harsh reactions from the crowd from the moment he stepped on the floor for pre-game warm-ups. Fans showed up early to boo him from warm-ups to the tribute video thanking him and Danny Green for their time.
It wasn’t just thunderous boos but also chants. When Leonard went to the free throw line, chants of “traitor” could likely be heard all the way to 410 and I-35. In the games final moments, “Uncle Dennis” chants broke out, who many fans blame as being at the center of the Kawhi drama last summer.
“I felt badly about it,” Popovich said of the reaction Leonard got. “Kawhi is a high-character guy. We all make decisions in our lives, what we are going to do with our futures. He has the same right to that as any of us.”
Here is what went good and bad for the Spurs, as well as three standout players: DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Bryn Forbes.
- The Spurs went up against one of the top Eastern Conference teams and showed they are just as good. San Antonio led scored 38 points in the first quarter and gave Toronto its biggest deficit after 12 minutes this season.
- Derrick White continues to show his improvement as he finished with 19 points on 72 percent shooting to go along with four assists.
- DeRozan notched his first career triple-double against his old team. Couldn’t have come at a better time.
- Defensively, the Spurs held Leonard to 21 points, six points below is 27.2 points per game season average.
- From three-point range, the Silver and Black sizzled, going 13-for-27 from beyond the arc.
- San Antonio caught a break with Kyle Lowry missing the game due to injury.
- Patty Mills from three, going 1-for-5 and shot 34 percent for the game.
Three Standout Players:
The former Raptor said in the offseason that when the NBA schedule came out, he was circling the date he’d play his former team. Well, that day was Thursday night and he played like he was ready to prove the Raptors made a mistake.
DeRozan posted his first career triple-double as he finished with 21 points, 14 rebounds, and 11 assists. The small forward scored eight points in the first quarter, including a rim-rocking dunk that got the crowd off their feet.
While Leonard got boos and chants, DeRozan felt the love with big cheers and chants of “M-V-P” when he went to the free throw line for free throws.
MVP chants for DeMar after the and-1 pic.twitter.com/yYXesfsReh
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 4, 2019
The Spurs played like they had DeRozan’s back and played like they had something to prove. Not just to themselves but possibly to Leonard and the rest of the league as well.
“It was fun,” DeRozan said. “It was fun going out there and messing around with all my former teammates. It wasn’t hard at all.”
The All-Star forward had another big night as he carved his way through the Toronto frontline and led the Spurs with DeRozan to a huge win on an emotional night.
It was only fitting DeRozan’s triple-double came off a made basket by LMA as a screen and roll was set and executed to perfection.
The former Michigan State Spartan showed exactly why the Spurs put so much trust in him and how far his game has grown in Thursday’s win. He showed no fear given the heavy emotion and stage.
Forbes finished with 20 points and shot 6-for-7 from three-point range. He scored the first points of the game for San Antonio and was aggressive pulling up from beyond the arc and even on his way to the basket.
“Defensively has been the biggest change,” Forbes said. Also offensively, we trust each other. The way we moved the ball tonight just made things easy.”
The Spurs are now 22-17 on the season and will return to the court on Saturday night when they welcome the Memphis Grizzlies (18-19) at 7 pm Central Time at the AT&T Center.