Spurs at Raptors: San Antonio begins quick roadie without Splitter

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It’s been cold in San Antonio in recent days, which provided for adequate acclimation opportunities prior to the Spurs’ road trip to Toronto and Milwaukee. That’s the good news. I guess that’s good news? It’s something, at least.

The bad news? Tiago Splitter will not accompany the team on the quick, two-game swing. In case you missed it over the weekend, the Spurs have not been good defensively this season when he is off the floor, which is nearly 28 minutes a night. San Antonio is allowing just 86.9 points per 100 possessions when Splitter is on the court and 102 per when he’s off. That’s a hell of a discrepancy. The saving grace for this team has been the offense the bench has produced. Without it, they’d be in a bad place.

And while the Raptors are in a state of flux, this could be an issue. As you may have heard by now, Rudy Gay has been traded to Sacramento along with a few other players, leaving a bit of a void in the rosters lineup for the time being. Now, it’s arguably a good void, if that’s possible, given that the Raptors have been statistically better on both sides of the ball when Gay isn’t on the court. And in the team’s first game without him against the Lakers on Sunday night, Toronto big man Amir Johnson went off for a career high 32 points to go along with 10 boards.

He could potentially be a handful for San Antonio’s frontcourt without Splitter, as Tim Duncan will likely be preoccupied with Jonas Valanciunas for much of his time on the floor. But news out of Toronto is that Jeff Ayres will make the start tonight, and he’s the kind of big, athletic body that can help San Antonio in a matchup like the one we’ll see tonight. Keep an eye on Aron Baynes, too, as he was the only one who could do anything against Valanciunas in the Las Vegas Summer League. Baynes held Jonas to just 4-of-16 shooting in that matchup, and without Splitter, his presence might be needed tonight.

The Raptors are a good rebounding team, especially on the offensive glass. San Antonio, on the other hand, is the best defensive rebounding team in the league, an area that hasn’t suffered when Splitter is off the court. Outside of the that, Toronto isn’t a team that should give the Spurs trouble — on paper, at least. But there is the element of the unknown.

We don’t really know what this version of the Raptors looks like without Gay, given the small sample size available. He was traded to Toronto midseason of last year, so he hasn’t spent that much time with the team, relatively speaking. But across the Raptors are a very middle-of-the-pack to below-average team across the board. They’re dead last in the league in assists, and offensive stagnancy can be a death knell against the Spurs.

But one of the matchups to watch outside of the frontcourt battle will be Tony Parker against Kyle Lowry. Parker typically struggles with the more bowling-ball-ish point guards in the league who are able to take advantage of their size in one-on-one situations. Lowry has put up solid numbers against Parker in the past, including a 20-point outing in his only game against the Spurs last season, and Raptors General Manager Masai Ujiri probably sends a memo to coach Dwane Casey every morning asking him to feature the point guard for trade purposes in the team’s upcoming games.

Enjoy Spurs vs. Raptors tonight and remember, it’s a 6 p.m. CT start tonight on Fox Sports Southwest, so be prepared. We’ll have all the reaction you need after the game.