Article Written by Jacob Pacheco (@JacobPacheco6)
“I wanted to break every record that was there and to be the first to do every single thing there. I always expressed that.” is what former Raptor, DeMar DeRozan, said to the media hours before going up against his former team where he spent nine seasons with. This was one of the most highly anticipated match-ups of the season for both teams. Not only was it the first time DeRozan was going up against the Raptors, but it was also the return of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to San Antonio.
Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard were a huge part of the San Antonio Spurs’ Championship run in 2014 and there’s no denying they were among the top fan favourites alongside Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan at the time. But times have changed. For the first time ever, Kawhi Leonard entered the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas for the opposing team. After spending seven seasons with the Spurs, winning a ring and multiple Defensive Player of the Year Awards, this was just another game for Leonard.
“It meant a lot, I put blood, sweat and tears wearing that jersey, believing in something, I put a lot of work in.” Leonard said when asked about his time with the Spurs. He was ready for anything that was going to be thrown at him from the media or during the game. Although Leonard wasn’t asked about what kind of reception he’d think he’d receive from the Spurs’ faithful at game time, Green did. He said pre-game, “I think it’ll be loud, like a playoff game. There’s going to be a ton of emotion from the fans, especially towards Kawhi.” And there was exactly that.
The ovations from the crowd began earlier than expected. As the Raptors came onto the court for their shoot-around, the boos reigned down. But that wasn’t all. Every touch Leonard had during shoot around; whether it be a shot, or a lay-up, he would receive boos. Meanwhile every time Green touched the ball, he would get cheers. I think you know where this is going.
Shortly before the player introductions, a video tribute was shown thanking Leonard and Green for their time in San Antonio.. There were shots of Green looking up at the video tribute, while Leonard continued to do his pre-game stretch, not even taking a look. As the introductions occurred and the tribute ended, fans were heard chanting “Dan-ny.” A loud cheer and chant of “Danny Green” quickly went to loud boos for Leonard.
As the game got underway, and the Raptors won the tip, the boos immediately were heard as the ball got straight into Leonard’s hands as he fought his way to the rim for a strong And-1 to start. But that quick start didn’t last long. DeRozan and the Spurs came to play, quickly turning the game around. The Spurs went on a 15-5 run and head coach Nick Nurse was forced to call a timeout, but that didn’t help either. The Spurs were hot and didn’t let up. The Raptors were down by 19 after 12 minutes and allowed San Antonio to shoot better than 65 percent.
Not only were the Spurs hot straight out of the gate, but so was DeRozan. After 12 minutes he was on pace to record a triple-double, the first of his NBA career (a total of 764 games). The Raptors didn’t stop chipping away at that Spurs lead, but the Spurs never stopped applying the pressure, pushing the tempo and making Toronto feel uncomfortable with the pace they were playing. Toronto’s 3-point shooting woes continued as they shot 2-of-12 come halftime from beyond the arc and trailed the Spurs by 16. Coming out of the half, it was all Spurs, going on a 9-0 run growing their lead back up to 25. From that point on, it was basically over and all eyes were on DeRozan to see if he could notch his first ever triple-double.
Going into the fourth quarter, DeRozan was just one assist shy of the milestone. At the 7:10 mark in the final frame, DeRozan got his assist, and for the first time in his career he recorded a triple-double against his former team. Only fitting. Not only was DeRozan all business, so were the Spurs who dismantled Toronto 125-107.
Many now will be looking forward to the rematch on February 22nd in Toronto at Scotiabank Arena, including Danny Green. Green finished with zero points in 26 minutes of work on 0-of-7 shooting. OG Anunoby also finished with zero points in 18 minutes of work. The Raptors, as a team, also shot a combined 6-of-30 from 3-point range. Some sweet revenge is in the making. As for right now, Toronto cannot look in the rear-view mirror and must move on because they are no longer sitting atop of the Eastern Conference.
Toronto now sits beneath the Milwaukee Bucks in conference as these two powerhouse teams face off on tonight.
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