SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio Spurs returned to the AT&T Center on Saturday night for the first time since March to play a regular-season basketball game and they came back home in style, defeating the Toronto Raptors 119-114 for their second win of the season.
Just as they did in their win against Memphis, the Spurs started the game slow as the Raptors built a 39-33 lead after the first quarter but San Antonio answered back with a strong defensive second period, allowing just 19 Raptors points.
LaMarcus Aldridge scored 12 points on the night on 5-of-14 shooting but his most important two points were at the end of the game as his fade away put-back with 29.9 seconds remaining gave San Antonio the lead for good at 115-114.
Toronto (0-2) was led by Fred VanFleet’s 27 points as he shot 50 percent from the floor while Chris Boucher added 22. Kyle Lowry chipped in 16 points for the Raptors, who lost their second consecutive game to begin the season.
Three Standout Players
The Spurs got a big game out of their leading scorer from a year ago as DeMar DeRozan showed once again he can thrive in this new-look offense Gregg Popovich conformed to while the Spurs were in the bubble.
DeRozan finished with 27 points, including 16 in the first quarter. He connected on three shots from beyond the arc, going 3-for-4 from deep. His three-pointer with a minute remaining pulled the Spurs within one, which then led to Aldridge’s put back putting San Antonio on top for good.
“DeMar, that’s part of his game this year, to shoot more 3s,” Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich said of DeRozan’s three-point shooting.
If DeRozan along with Aldridge can shoot more threes, it will only make San Antonio much more dangerous offensively and much more difficult to guard.
During the offseason, Patty Mills said he would be bringing his style of play in the FIBA tournament to the Spurs, and two games into the season, he’s shown that it can be lethal when firing on all cylinders.
Mills went FIBA mode on Saturday night, scoring 21 points – 15 of which came off of three-pointers – while shooting 88 percent for the game. The Aussie guard also had three assists and a rebound to his stat line.
It is early but the Spurs are showing their aggressive style of play and so far, it seems to be working for them on the offensive end. Through the first two games, San Antonio has averaged 125.5 points per game.
The young point guard balled out for the home team on Saturday night, proving patience pays off when returning from an ACL injury. Murray promised the Spurs would be a different team and he plays a big part in that.
Murray posted a triple-double in Saturday’s home win with 11 points, 10 assists, and 10 rebounds. He remained aggressive pushing the pace and bringing the ball up the court, slashing his way to the rim and finding his open teammates for buckets.
“It’s good, that’s a powerful team over there,” Murray said of the win. “I think it was important for us.”
While the win is important, Murray and the Spurs will have little time to rest as they will face the New Orleans Pelicans (1-1) on Sunday night in their first back-to-back set of the young season.