In a showdown between both #2 seeds, the San Antonio Spurs are looking for redemption against the Toronto Raptors.
In a game played north of the border on December 9th, the Spurs lost a narrow contest 97-94, failing to complete a 4th quarter comeback. DeMar DeRozan lead the Raptors to victory by scoring 28 points.
The Toronto Raptors (51-24) now find themselves inching closer to catching the Cleveland Cavaliers for the top seed in the Eastern Conference, and the play of their stellar backcourt is a huge reason why.
DeRozan and Kyle Lowry are one of just 3 backcourt duos in the league to average more than 20 points each, and the only such pair in the Eastern Conference (Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson of Golden State and Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum of Portland are the others).
DeRozan can get to the rim at will, and Lowry has continued his development into one of the most well-rounded point guards in the NBA. Players rarely elevate their status after a substantial amount of years in the league, but Lowry was a late bloomer. The last three seasons for Lowry have been a transformation from solid role player to star point guard.
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The Raptors also have a pair of centers who are high-impact players. Their starter, seven-footer Jonas Valanciunas, is a solid low-post scorer and also inhales rebounds. His backup, Bismack Biyombo, is one of the most tenacious interior defenders in the league. Biyombo’s offensive game is limited, but he’s a great rebounder and shot-blocker who sets the defensive tone for a Raptors team that ranks in the top 5 in points allowed.
The Spurs continued their flawless season at home with a win over the Pelicans on Wednesday. A victory over the Raptors on Friday would advance them to 39-0 at home and within reach of the unprecedented perfect regular season at home.
Both of these teams have a lot to play for. The Raptors are trying to secure home-court advantage through the Eastern Conference playoffs, and while the Spurs are comfortably penciled in at #2 in the West, a perfect home record is something special. The team may claim indifference to any achievement besides a championship, but it’s hard to believe that the Spurs don’t desperately want to keep the streak alive by beating one of the elite teams in the NBA.