“Good players” dominate in the Raptors’ victory over the Spurs as the trade deadline approaches

February 9, 2023

Even if the Toronto Raptors defeated the San Antonio Spurs 112-98 on Wednesday, the more significant tale hanging over the team’s head makes little difference.


Like the rest of the NBA, the Raptors are focused on Thursday’s trade deadline. Given that the Raptors have been the subject of numerous trade rumors, their game against the Spurs might be the last time we see them in this incarnation.


“We have a lot of talented guys on a losing squad. So that’s about it,” said Fred VanVleet, noting that his name has been mentioned in trade rumors more often than ever.


“This year, we haven’t performed to our standards. We have so placed ourselves in this situation. There will likely be calls from every team in the league.


With the win, the club advances to 10th in the East, good enough for the last play-in place, but it doesn’t disguise the reality that the Raptors still have their worst record through 56 games since the 2012-13 season. Against a Spurs team that’s now lost ten straights to hold a 14-41 record, these lineups are meant to be routine work for a win.


Conversations about the Raptors have focused on whether general manager Bobby Webster and president Masai Ujiri should overhaul this squad or add to one that undoubtedly has some positive aspects in a league that doesn’t recognize mediocrity.


The fact that all five starters on Wednesday finished with double-digit scoring totals, along with Chris Boucher’s 18-point double-double off the bench, served as a reminder of those positive aspects. They achieved a feat they’ve only done twice this season by winning their third straight game.


The Raptors were led by Pascal Siakam, who finished with 38 points, ten rebounds, and seven assists, snapping a 13-game drought in which he had not scored more than 30 points. The 6-foot-9 forward got right to work against the Spurs, scoring 18 points on 7-of-7 field goal shooting to start the first period.


Nurse praised Pascal’s ability to “get in a nice rhythm on his mid-range,” stating that Pascal “showed he was aware of what was available and was willing to take them right and simply good tempo and rhythm for him tonight.”


Together with Siakam, Fred VanVleet contributed eight points in the first quarter, outscoring the Spurs 26-24.


It assisted the Raptors in taking an early lead by helping them during a 14-0 run.


The Raptors restored their composure in the third quarter, increasing their lead to 18 points, but the Spurs’ defensive ferocity allowed them to get back into the game in the 2nd quarter. It was notably responsible for Gary Trent Jr. and VanVleet’s performances, whose names are still circulating in trade rumors.


This summer, both are available as unrestricted free agents. Along with OG Anunoby, who missed his sixth consecutive game due to a left wrist strain, the trio has drawn interest from several teams vying for the championship.


“We have several players that many organizations are interested in, so our scenario is not ideal,” said VanVleet. “The rest of us, you know, will come to work tomorrow, get a nice practice in, and see what happens while the front office will do their thing and do what’s best for the organization.”


On the other hand, the Raptors are rumored to be interested in Jakob Poeltl. The big man was moved to Toronto in the 2018 Kawhi Leonard deal after being selected as a lottery pick by the team.


The lack of a dependable big man in the Raptors’ starting lineup has hampered their season. On Wednesday at Scotiabank Arena, the Raptors did an excellent job stopping Poeltl. Siakam frequently targeted him, forcing him to play defense while scoring 12 points on 4-11 shooting for the Spurs.


Head coach Nurse was entirely complimentary of the former Raptor before the game.


“When he was here, we adored him. Nurse praised him for being “just an excellent, smart, tough, relentless worker,” pointing out his capacity to create effective screens, rebound, and defend the rim. “When he was here, we truly liked him.”


Suppose Poeltl will return to Toronto before the 3 p.m. time remains to be known. When the Raptors visit Scotiabank Arena on Friday, Feb. 10, it will be interesting to see what portion of the current squad will still be in place due to the trade deadline.

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