Raptors fend off Spurs after Lowry and Leonard pick DeRozan’s pocket late
|Toronto Star 23 Feb 2019 at 09:59|
On an evening that included nearly a two-minute standing ovation, after a tribute video thanking DeMar DeRozan for nine years of dedication to the franchise, the game lived up to all its billing and hype.
And the stars were the stars.
DeRozan, Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry were all central to a terrifically dramatic finish as the Raptors won their seventh in a row, squeaking out a 120-117 win over the Spurs before an emotionally exhausted Scotiabank Arena crowd.
Lowry and Leonard conspired to double-team DeRozan at midcourt and force a turnover that led to a Leonard dunk and a 118-117 Raptors lead with 15.1 seconds left in the back-and-forth affair, a perfect end-of-game script.
“It was just: Be patient, don’t foul right away, try to get the trap first,” Lowry said post-game. “I was going no matter what. I turned him, and once he turned I went after the ball. One of us got our hand on it. I hit it up and (Leonard) grabbed it and we got going.”
Said coach Nick Nurse: “Really, really heads-up play by (Lowry).”
The Raptors got a stop on the next possession, and a video review showed Lowry was inbounds to secure possession after the missed shot with 1.1 seconds left. The Raptors got the ball inbounds after calling two timeouts to set up the play, and Leonard iced the game at the line.
DeRozan would finish with 23 points and seven assists, cheered by the sold-out crowd from the time he first walked on the court to warm up for the game.
“I thought it was a great game, a real competitive game,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “After a long break, (you’d think) you wouldn’t get something like that. It would take everybody a while to get back in the groove. I thought both teams started out a little bit slowly, but a really good, competitive game all the way around.”
Leonard will be quite glad to see the end of his former team for this season. Leonard missed 11 of his first 13 shots, held in check by a series of much smaller defenders than he’s used to seeing, before getting untracked a bit in the second half. He finished with 25 points on 8-for-23 shooting and two assists.