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San Antonio Spurs recover from slow start to defeat depleted Raptors

San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan, front, has the ball knocked loose by Toronto Raptors forward Amir Johnson during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Toronto on Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Frank Gunn)

TORONTO - Led by Manu Ginobili's 16 points, seven Spurs scored in double figures as San Antonio recovered from a slow start to thump the depleted Toronto Raptors 116-103 in NBA play Tuesday night.

Toronto (7-13) led by as much as 14 in the first quarter but, with little help available on the bench, faded fast and San Antonio (16-4) pulled ahead as the game wore on.

DeMar DeRozan and Amir Johnson led Toronto with 19 points. Tony Parker finished with 15 and Tim Duncan 14 as the Spurs went to their bench early.

Three-point shooting helped the Spurs gain their lead. San Antonio, moving the ball around nicely before going cold late from outside the arc, hit 13 of 23 compared to 10 of 23 for Toronto.

The Raptors were without Greivis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson, John Salmons and Chuck Hayes, acquired Monday in the deal that sent Rudy Gay, Aaron Gray and Quincy Acy to Sacramento.

Patterson, Salmons and Hayes were due to arrive in Toronto later Tuesday with Venezuela's Vasquez slated to come in Wednesday due to red tape requirements.

The Spurs, meanwhile, were in their third country in less than a week. San Antonio was in Mexico City last week for a date with the Minnesota Timberwolves that was eventually postponed due to smoke inside the arena.

Tuesday's game was the first of four in five nights for the Spurs, who were coming off a 111-100 loss Sunday in Indiana.

It was also the first for Toronto since the Gay trade was officially approved by the league, although the players involved sat out Sunday's 106-94 road win over the Lakers. Toronto won, snapping a five-game losing streak, and used just eight players.

Forward Tyler Hansbrough was not available Tuesday, sidelined by a shoulder sprain. D.J. Augustin was waived on Monday. That left 10 players available to face the Spurs, with DeRozan and Terrence Ross struggling with their accuracy.

Toronto coach Dwane Casey said the trade was a chance for his players to step up.

"We've got a lot of young guys sitting in that room that need to take this opportunity when they get their chance, (when) their number's called on the floor, to go out and not only show us but show 29 other teams what they do," he said prior to the game.

"But in the same time do it in the vein of winning, because you'll stick out like a sore thumb if you go out there trying to showcase your individual talents and not in the concept, in the spirit of winning, and playing winning basketball."

Centre Jonas Valanciunas was up for the task Tuesday, sinking his first five shots with an arsenal ranging from a dunk and hook shot to put-back layup and tip.

Led by the Lithuanian, Toronto made its first six baskets for a 13-6 lead before DeRozan missed a three-point attempt some four minutes in. It proved to be a quiet start for DeRozan, who headed to the bench after picking up two first-quarter fouls.

The first quarter ended with the Raptors ahead 36-24 and shooting at 62.5 per cent compared to 47.8 for San Antonio. Toronto's two bigs, Valanciunas and Johnson, combined for 20 points on 10-of-12 shooting while Spurs stars Duncan and Parker totalled eight points.

San Antonio took control in the second quarter, outscoring Toronto 35-17 as the Raptors missed on 14-of-22 shots. A 13-2 Spurs run at the start of the quarter narrowed the gap to one point and the visitors pulled ahead for the first time, 41-40, courtesy of an Aron Baynes dunk.

San Antonio led 59-53 at the half, closing with a 13-4 run. Valanciunas and Johnson were stuck on 24 points after two quarters while DeRozan was up to 13. Toronto's shooting percentage was down to 50 while the Spurs improved to 54.8.

The depleted Toronto bench was 1-of-7 shooting in the first half compared to 10 of 17 for the Spurs.

San Antonio pushed the lead to 15, up 89-74 at the end of the third quarter. It got uglier after that.

Baynes, a six-foot-10 Australian in his second year in the NBA, finished with a career-high 14 for the Spurs.

Casey said plenty of work lay ahead for the new-look Raps.

"We're going to treat (practice) Wednesday and Thursday like training camp, we've got so many new guys coming in," he said prior to the game. "We're going to go back to basics. We've got to find out where guys can fit in."

Ross got the start at small forward Tuesday, with Casey calling the six-foot-six Ross a "freak athlete" who is one of the most athletic players he has ever coached in the NBA.

"He's a great athlete. He just has to harness that, bring it in and be a complete player, and do it on a consistent basis."

Tuesday was not his night to show it, however.

Jeff Ayres made his first start for the Spurs in place of injured centre Tiago Splitter (calf) but saw limited action after Toronto's hot start.

Canadian Cory Joseph and former Raptor Matt Bonner got warm receptions when they checked into the game for the Spurs in the fourth quarter.

San Antonio came into the game with a 25-9 mark against the Raptors, and had won the last five meetings. Toronto's last victory over the Spurs was Jan. 3, 2010, at the Air Canada Centre.

The Spurs went 13-1 to open the season, tied for the best start in franchise history, but came into Toronto on a 2-3 run.

Toronto FC's Brazilian target Gilberto was said to be in attendance. Raptors global ambassador Drake was also courtside.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2013
The Canadian Press

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