TORONTO — The Toronto Raptors played such stifling defence that even a two-year-old could see it was the San Antonio Spurs' undoing.
Kyle Lowry scored 24 and added three assists as the Raptors held on for an 86-83 win over the Spurs on Friday. When asked what Toronto did defensively that was so effective, Lowry's toddler son Kameron answered for him.
"Played good," said Kameron, from his dad's arms.
"We played good defence," said the older Lowry, translating for his camera-shy son. "I think we just talked. Communication went well, we helped each other every single play. Knowing a team like that, you gotta always be in constant communication, what they're gonna run, who's gonna get the ball."
DeMar DeRozan had 21 points, six assists and seven rebounds for Toronto (31-13), which has only lost at Air Canada Centre three times this season. Centre Jonas Valanciunas had a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
LaMarcus Aldridge led San Antonio (30-17) with 17 points and 14 rebounds. Most of his scoring came in the third quarter as the Spurs mounted a comeback and Valanciunas was on the bench.
DeRozan praised the grinding defence that Valanciunas applied to Aldridge throughout the game, keeping him scoreless in the second and fourth quarters.
"Physicality. Got real physical with him," said DeRozan. "Made everything he did tough. From there that's all you can hope for and hope that a great player like Aldridge misses. He did a great job on that."
The sellout crowd of 19,800 gave DeRozan a standing ovation in the first quarter when it was announced that he would be competing in his fourth NBA All-Star Game, his second straight year as a starter for the Eastern Conference.
Fred VanVleet, who bruised his knee in Monday's 117-111 loss in Philadelphia, did not play for the second game in a row. His absence as a third guard behind Lowry and DeRozan was felt, forcing the Raptors' two stars to play more minutes against a tough San Antonio defence.
San Antonio was missing several players, including Manu Ginobli (right thigh contusion) and Kawhi Leonard (quadriceps). DeRozan said that even without its stars the Spurs are a dangerous team.
"They're just a product of the San Antonio Spurs," said DeRozan. "What they're capable of every single night, with their starters or without their starters, they're a well-rounded group. Everybody understands their roles and they play extremely hard."
That toughness was evident in the fourth quarter as San Antonio's deep roster kept them in it. With both teams trading leads early in the game, Toronto held a 63-60 lead after three.
Reserve guard Bryn Forbes drained a three-pointer with 6:53 to go in the game to make it 70-69. DeRozan hit a turnaround jump shot and both teams missed baskets, before Lowry carried it up the court and shook his defender with a pivot move for a jump shot, forcing San Antonio to call a timeout.
Patty Mills's step-back jumper again cut into Toronto's lead, but Lowry responded with two made free throws and after a Raptors timeout Valanciunas sank a hook shot. DeRozan brought the crowd to its feet again with a layup for an 80-71 lead.
Pau Gasol made one of his two free throws, and Lowry passed the ball out of bounds just before the two minute warning. Gasol scored on the next possession but DeRozan came right back with a 19-foot jump shot.
Dejounte Murray replied for the Spurs, but on the inbound DeRozan settled the ball down and passed to Lowry who sank another jumper to make it 84-76 and force a San Antonio timeout with 30.9 seconds left to play.
Aldridge missed a three-pointer on the next possession but Murray tipped in the rebound with 18.8 seconds left to play. Valanciunas blocked Gasol's drive to the net, earning a foul on the play. The veteran Spurs forward sank both free throws and on the ensuing inbound DeRozan took a hard foul. He made both free throws with fans chanting "M-V-P!" between attempts.
Forbes's 30-foot three-pointer quieted the crowd and, again, DeRozan was fouled on the inbound. He missed both free throws but the Spurs couldn't get off a final shot before time expired.
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John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press