SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio Spurs suffered a 110-106 loss to the Toronto Raptors (32-14) at the AT&T Center on Sunday afternoon, in a game where basketball felt second nature.
Just over an hour prior to tipoff, news broke that NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter 13-year-old Gianna died in a tragic helicopter crash in California along with seven others. Both the Spurs and Raptors took a 24-second shot clock violation to begin the game as a tribute as chants of “KOBE!” rained down from the AT&T Center crowd.
Everybody is pretty emotional about the tragedy with Kobe,” Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich said after the game. “All of us knew what a great player he was, but he went beyond great play. He was a competitor. It goes unmatched. Even more importantly, we all feel a deep sense of loss for what he meant to all of us in so many ways and so many millions of people loved him for so many different reasons. It’s just a tragic thing and there are no words that can describe how everybody feels. We all think about the family and process they will be going through now. That’s where all our thoughts should be.”
Both teams struggled to begin the game, with every player and coach’s mind not on the game but on the friend they lost. Toronto raced out to a 29-12 lead but San Antonio responded by rallying in the second half, outscoring the Raptors 34-23 in the third quarter.
Pascal Siakam scored 35 points, including 25 in the first quarter. Kyle Lowry added 16 points and Fred VanFleet chipped in 13 for the Raptors, who earned the season series split with San Antonio with the win.
DeMar DeRozan and Derrick White led the Spurs with 14 points. DeRozan added six rebounds and seven assists. Bryn Forbes and Dejounte Murray each chipped in 13 points apiece for San Antonio, who suffered their second straight loss.
Prior to the game, the media was not allowed in the locker room. On the bench, assistant coaches Tim Duncan and Becky Hammon could be seen wiping away tears. DeRozan and Popovich shared a moment on the bench before tipoff and both teams shared hugs following the game.
“Words can’t explain it,” DeRozan said. “For myself, learning everything I’ve learned basketball-wise from Kobe. “Everything, everything. Everything I learned came from Kobe, everything.”
The spurs are now 20-25 on the season and will return to the court on Monday night when they travel to take on the Chicago Bulls (18-30) at 7 p.m. from the United Center.