The Toronto Raptors hope to erase an ugly season opener by going on the road on Saturday for a cross-conference duel with the San Antonio Spurs. Toronto looked surprisingly deflated on offense in Wednesday’s meeting with the New Orleans Pelicans. For the Spurs, however, it was off to the races. They dropped 131 points on the Memphis Grizzlies to pick up their first win of the season. The Raptors, on the other hand, fell in defeat in a 113-99 loss to New Orleans.
A team with no home
Some semblance of normalcy has yet to reach the Raptors.They are still virtually homeless as a franchise. That isn’t a dig at the Tampa Bay area for welcoming them with open arms, but it isn’t the same as them playing in Canada, where they basically had an entire country backing them. Something just felt off as they were crushed in their season opener against the Pelicans. Fred VanVleet was definitely off on a night when he shot 3-of-12 from the floor for only nine points.
Pascal Siakam chipped in 20 points, six rebounds and six assists, but there was never a point where it felt like he took over the game.
That’s something that will have to change in Saturday’s tilt with the Spurs. The Raptors are desperate for Siakam to emerge into the star he’s clearly capable of becoming. But he also needs to develop that confidence and swagger about himself to take over games. The Spurs ranked among the worst teams in the league defensively last season, and they’re coming off a game where they gave up 119 points to the Grizzlies. Toronto can clearly do better than shooting 42.7 percent from the floor.
Perhaps the most shocking part about the loss was how poorly the Raptors looked defensively. They finished last season with the No. 2-ranked 3-point defense in basketball and got lit up in the opener for 19 3-pointers. Guys have to do a better job of getting to the perimeter, or it’ll be a night of déjà vu with a Spurs team coming off a season where they shot 37.6 percent from beyond the arc.
Spurs looked like a well-oiled machine
There were only two players that dressed for the Spurs against the Grizzlies that didn’t finish the game with double scoring figures. The team did a tremendous job of moving the ball around and feeding open shooters against a Grizzlies team that looked completely dumbfounded from the start.Another effort like that would go a long way in defeating a visiting Raptors team that didn’t look much better on the defensive end of the floor in their opener, either. They got buried by 3-pointers on a night when the Spurs shot 52.5 percent from the floor. It’s easy to forget San Antonio was one of the more efficient 3-point shooting teams in the league last season. They are more than capable of hitting Toronto where it hurts if given the opportunity.
It was still a missed bag defensively with the Spurs allowing Ja Morant to go off for 44 points. Granted, Morant is clearly a star on the rise, but the Spurs also have a reputation of playing bad defense from last season. Don’t let one opening loss lull you into thinking the Raptors are completely void of offensive firepower.