picture: DeMar DeRozan / PHOTO & Story by A. DORCELY
Happy New Year!!! Hope your resolutions are still intact. As “they” say some people had to be left behind and they couldn’t come with us for the rest of the ride. New Year; New Beginnings! So goes the story of the Raptors as well. Which I’m sure you all know by now. But this new season and this new year may bring about a first time All-Star as we’re about a month away from the game. With that being said though we’ll touch base on that at a later time.
Now let’s get to the matter at hand. We’re starting the third week in January with the NBA season almost halfway over. Western New York’s NBA team along with that of our Canadian brethren, the Raptors are currently 25-13. A record ranking them fourth in the Eastern Conference and ninth in the NBA. Suffice it to say not many saw this coming. And now come the Spurs as Toronto is trying to nurse many players back to health. If you’re paying attention then you saw what I did there.
The game this evening has a dinner start time. In layman’s terms, 6pm. The Spurs have come to town and with them some former Raptors. Most notably DeMar DeRozan. The relationship between Lowry and DeRozan is well chronicled. Best friends playing against each other. Bragging rights are definitely up for grabs.
Toronto got off to a fast start leading 23-11 with 5:30 left in the first quarter. Pascal Siakam’s proliferating scoring was a major catalyst for this. At the end of the first quarter the score was 28-21. Siakam had poured in 12 points.
Things were looking good. Then the second quarter started. Patty Mills was fouled shooting a three pointer. Which allowed San Antonio to cut into the lead with the clock standing still. For most of the quarter the Raptors held on to about a twelve point lead. But the arena seemed uneasy. As if everyone knew about the Spurs’ allure and DeRozan’s disposition. Surge Ibaka was called for his third foul with about 3:12 left in the quarter. Coach Nurse challenged the call and won. So the Raptors finished the half leading 51-43.
At the start of the second half the “Prodigal Son” had 3 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists. Toronto was starting to pull away even causing Coach Popovich to call back to back timeouts after back to back three pointers that increased the Raptors’ lead to 70-53 with 6:41 left in the 3rd. In the Bible, the Meek Mill….Sorry! Wrong story. Let me try that again. In the Bible, the “Prodigal Son” is welcomed back by his father with open arms. DeMar DeRozan was welcomed back with another video tribute and the “ooouuus and aaas” at the 3:25 mark with a thunderous dunk over Chris Boucher plus the foul.
Usually you can’t feel the exact turning point of a game. But even with Boucher returning the favor at other end of court for a dunk of his own. You knew! The intensity in the game had grown. The speed had changed and that dunk by DeRozan had awaken the Spurs team. The missed opportunities by the Raptors were now glaring. Toronto continued to lead at the end of the third though.
Within the fourth quarter a bevy of defenses were on display. The Spurs switched to a 2-3 zone defense to slow down the Raptors. While Toronto played a man to man defense while also indulging in a triangle two defense to try to stop DeRozan. Needless to say to an avid sports enthusiast the break from the monotony was a nice treat. But it didn’t work out for the Raptors. Around 5:05 in the fourth quarter DeMar drove to the basket on consecutive possessions earning trips to the free throw line. San Antonio was able to take the lead and didn’t look back. They won the game with a score of 105-104.