Spurs 111, Raptors 100
Even though they knew it was coming, the Toronto Raptors were still powerless to stop a fourth-quarter surge by the San Antonio Spurs.
DeJuan Blair matched a career high by scoring 16 of his 28 points in the fourth, George Hill had 18 points and the Spurs won their fourth straight game, beating the Raptors 111-100 Wednesday night.
Tony Parker and Tim Duncan each had 16 points and Manu Ginobili 12 as San Antonio won for the 15th time in 17 games.
''In the fourth quarter we knew they were going to crank it up,'' Raptors coach Jay Triano said. ''They had strategically rested their guys and came back in the fourth and made it difficult for us to score.''
With Blair making eight of his 11 shots in the fourth, it was even more difficult for the Raptors to keep pace with San Antonio, whose 44-8 record is the best in the NBA
''He's just got a knack,'' Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of Blair. ''He's a natural player. He's got great hands, he understands what's going on. He's got great body control. He gets it done.''
Blair added 11 rebounds for his 13th double-double of the season. His previous high this season was 22 points, set in a Jan. 19 home win over Toronto. He also scored 28 against Oklahoma City on Jan. 13, 2010.
''He played great,'' Parker said. ''He was a beast on the boards and he was doing everything. He was getting in great position when I penetrated or when Manu penetrated. He was feeding off everybody.''
At 6-foot7, Blair doesn't have the same height as most opposing centers, but he more than makes up for it in effort.
''I'm one of the shortest centers in the league but at the same time I think I've got one of the biggest hearts as well,'' Blair said.
Being willing to throw his 270-pound frame around doesn't hurt, either.
''He's the type that's going to lay it on the line and rebound and do some dirty work,'' Hill said of Blair. ''We don't worry about his size. We all know he can make up for that with his strength. He just bullies people.''
Andrea Bargnani scored 29 points and DeMar DeRozan had 25 for the Raptors, who have lost 15 of 16.
Amir Johnson had 12 points and 13 rebounds, Leandro Barbosa scored 20 points and Jose Calderon had 11 assists for Toronto.
Trailing by three points to begin the final quarter, the Spurs opened the fourth with a 9-2 run, forcing Toronto to call timeout after a 3-pointer by Matt Bonner with 10:22 remaining put San Antonio up 90-86. The Spurs scored six of the next eight points after the stoppage to lead 96-88 with 8:25 left.
''We had a great fourth quarter tonight,'' Popovich said. ''But I thought in the first three quarters that Toronto sliced and diced us. Finally, in the fourth quarter, we handled it all well.''
Even with the strong finish, Popovich made it clear he wasn't satisfied.
''That's not good enough come playoff time,'' he said.
Bargnani scored 13 points in the opening quarter while Parker made all five shots he took in the first as the Spurs took a 31-29 lead after 12 minutes.
Toronto trailed 52-43 with 3:55 left in the half but DeRozan scored on three straight possessions to help cut the deficit to 60-56 at the break.
San Antonio extended its lead to 70-62 with 6:55 left in the third before Toronto battled back, taking advantage of five straight Spurs misses. A 3-pointer by Bargnani gave the Raptors a 73-72 lead at 4:15, putting Toronto in front for the first time since the opening quarter. The Raptors led 84-81 heading into the fourth.
Toronto's Johnson limped off midway through the first after spraining his right ankle, but returned to start the second.
''Amir was hurt,'' Triano said. ''You could tell even when he got offensive rebounds in the second half, he couldn't explode back up with it.''
San Antonio rookie Tiago Splitter left late in the third with a strained left hamstring and did not return.
''It's a little bit painful right now but I'll be good,'' Splitter said. The Spurs visit Philadelphia on Friday night.
Raptors guard Jerryd Bayless returned after missing the past two games with a sprained right knee, while Alexis Ajinca played despite sitting out Tuesday's loss at Milwaukee with a sore toe.
Notes: Hall of Fame pitcher Ferguson Jenkins sat courtside and was honored as the Raptors marked Black History Month. ... Former Blue Jays second baseman Roberto Alomar watched the game from a luxury suite. ... The Spurs lost their two previous visits to Toronto.