Mysterious Raptors display good version of themselves in win over Spurs

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It’s beyond the point of trying to figure out these Raptors.

From night to night the lineup changes, the compete level fluctuates and determining which Raptors are going to show up is anyone’s guess on any given night.

Yes, we’re well aware of the circumstances that have led to a lot of this but the whole year just feels like a guessing game.

Wednesday night without Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr., and on the back end of a back to back against a rested and comparatively healthy San Antonio Spurs club, the Raptors played one of their best games in weeks — give or take some struggles to close it out — coming away with a 117-112 win.

Raptors head coach Nick Nurse didn’t have a lot of guard play to go to in his remaining healthy, or at least active, bodies but he did have size and he leaned into that advantage wholeheartedly.

The Raptors starting five consisted of Malachi Flynn, the only true guard who dressed for Toronto along with OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Chris Boucher and Khem Birch. It was the 25th different starting five Nurse has run out there this year, which again speaks to the craziness of this season, and easily the biggest.


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That’s a starting five that goes 6-foot-1 and then 6-7, 6-9, 6-9, and 6-9.

Size has been a disadvantage most of the year for the Raptors but the recent additions of Birch, and Freddie Gillespie have altered the options pretty drastically.

Take it from no greater authority than former Raptor DeMar DeRozan. That size was noticed.

“They killed us on the boards, that was one of the big things,” DeRozan said referring to the 54-42 edge the Raptors enjoyed. “They definitely just kicked our butt on the boards, that kinda hurt, and we let them get out in transition and get some buckets.”

Defensively the size seemed to help, but the fresh bodies also played a big role in this one.

Birch and the aforementioned Gillespie, the two newcomers, combined for 23 points and 14 boards including a career-high-tying 14 points from Birch.

Paul Watson Jr., a guy coming off the health and safety protocols list who hasn’t been in a game since March 24, was big in the second half with nine points when the Raptors seemed to be struggling to score.

And then there was Yuta Watanabe, the young Japanese forward on a two-way contract for the Raptors, who enjoyed perhaps the best shooting night of his young Raptors career with 11 points including three three-pointers.

OG Anunoby led the Raptors with 22 points as he showed off some of his expanded offensive arsenal. That, too, caught the eye of DeRozan.

“Oh man, he started out stiff as a cardboard box,” DeRozan said thinking back to OG’s rookie days. “Now to see how he handles the ball, how he drives the ball, his post game. I saw him a lot this summer, we worked out a lot this summer, and to see his skill-set grow from when I first saw it speaks volumes of how much he loves and appreciates the game. He’s come a long way. He deserves everything that comes his way. I hope he keeps growing. It’s fun to see that, it’s fun to compete against that, and I’m glad I was a part of his career early on.”


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Not to be overlooked, Siakam had a solid all-around game with 20 points, six assists and 10 rebounds as well.


San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich has always spoken his mind.

He publicly eviscerated Donald Trump while he was in power. He has gone after the Republican party and their role in the extremism that currently threatens the United States in the past.

And he was at it again Wednesday night, using his platform to bring to light the issues that are harming the country he calls home.

On Wednesday night he was asked for his opinions about Spurs shareholders donating to the same politicians he has come out against.

Popovich began by saying he didn’t think anyone needed to be singled out, but then suggested anyone who does donate to the Donald Trumps and Ted Cruz’s of the world really need to look in the mirror and ask themselves why they are doing it.

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“I think everyone has to question why one would give money to people who participated in that sort of a lie, whether it’s people in Texas or any other place,” Popovich said. “How did they enjoy Jan. 6? How did they enjoy the rise of the extremism that we are seeing, and to have politicians divert attentions, or … lie about it, seems to me to be unbelievably dangerous. We are talking about our country, our democracy and these politicians were all basically attacked, but still ignore it. We all know why. We don’t have to go into that. But I think one must ask, why? What purpose does that do to keep people in office that are willing to out and out lie about things they know are untrue and dangerous for our society. It just boggles my mind.”


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It’s no secret the Spurs ownership group has been lead by the Holt family for the past 28 years and the Holt family are well-known financial supporters of the Republican party, and Trump in particular.

Popovich, when asked if he has ever been asked to tone down his comments by ownership, said the Holt family has been perfect in that regard, never pressuring or doing anything that would keep anyone in the organization from expressing their own views.

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Expect Fred VanVleet back in the lineup when the Raptors take on Orlando on Friday. VanVleet has missed the past seven games with a hip issue, though Wednesday night’s absence was his one-game suspension assessed when he left the bench to play peacemaker in the OG Anunoby altercation with the Lakers and Dennis Schroder. VanVleet was still on the injured list when the suspension was incurred and at that point it was stipulated that he could only serve the suspension once he had recovered from the injury.

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