Spurs look to keep rolling against struggling Raptors
TORONTO -- It was going to be difficult enough for the struggling Toronto Raptors to face the San Antonio Spurs Tuesday night at the Air Canada Centre.
Now they will have to do it without their leading scorer, DeMar DeRozan, who will miss at least the next two games with a sprained right ankle.
DeRozan was injured in the loss to the Phoenix Suns on Sunday when he stepped on another player's foot. He continued to play but it was worse on Monday.
"When it rains, it pours sometimes," said DeRozan who is averaging 27.9 points per game. "Once you get through that part of it, it always comes out to be worth it. That's how I always look at it. I think I'm just an optimistic type of guy and that's how I look at everything."
The Raptors have lost three in a row for the first time this season and face the Spurs, who defeated the Brooklyn Nets Monday night 112-86 despite being without star forward Kawhi Leonard, who had a sore hand.
The Spurs also were without Pau Gasol, who has a broken bone in his left hand; Tony Parker, who has a sore left foot; and Manu Ginobili, who had back spasms but was scheduled to have the game off anyway.
It did not matter against the Nets. The Spurs had seven players reach double-digit scoring and produced a 39-point third quarter.
"There's a certain level of efficiency and there's just a real level of maturity here," said David Lee, who scored 15 points off the bench for the Spurs. "This is really just a punch in, punch out, do your job type of team. Coach Pop (Gregg Popovich) is going to get his way no matter who he has in there. Our depth is one of our strengths and everybody's ready to play and of course Pop makes it clear what he expects out there whether it's the first team guys or the role players doing that."
"I just told the locker room, I thought we did a good job," Popovich said. "Every road win is hard to get and real special, so we've concentrated on that pretty well this season. We always have and this group is continuing to do that, so just because we had a good win against Cleveland (118-115 in overtime over the Cavaliers on Saturday), you know we don't want to take it away and lose your next game. It doesn't matter who you're playing. With that day off in New York, I was a little worried, because all I did was eat all day long."
The Spurs (35-9) are 19-4 on the road.
The last time the Raptors lost three in a row was in November 2015.
"Everybody's in panic mode right now, it's not time to panic," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "We're going through a tough time. This is part of the NBA. How you come out of this, how you fight against it, how you compete against it. That's the most important thing."
After playing the Spurs, the Raptors visit the Memphis Grizzlies for a game on Wednesday.
With DeRozan out, Terrence Ross and Norman Powell will try to pick up the slack. Also, Patrick Patterson could return from a strained left knee that has keep him out of all but two games since Dec. 29.
"They aren't going to score in the traditional, DeMar DeRozan way, mid-range shots and get to the free-throw line," Casey said. "We are going to have to do it different ways. Get to the rim, run in transition, run the floor, attack the rim and finish.
"We've been fortunate enough to put ourselves in a good position of being second in the East, so it's not like we're chopped liver. We shouldn't be in a situation where we're dropping our shoulders, the world is falling in, the sky is falling. We're going through a tough time. That's the NBA. We've got to be tough people to go through it."
The Raptors (28-16) are 15-7 at home.
The Spurs won the first meeting between the teams 110-82 on Jan. 3 at the AT&T Center.