Toronto (9 - 19)
San Antonio (21 - 8)
By JEFF BARTL
(AP) -- The Toronto Raptors were mostly healthy when they nearly knocked off the San Antonio Spurs last month.
They've been even better lately while playing short-handed.
With Andrea Bargnani and Kyle Lowry already on the shelf, Toronto will be without starting center Jonas Valanciunas on Wednesday night when it looks to win a sixth straight game and hand the Spurs their first home loss of December.
Amid their awful start to the season, the Raptors gave the Spurs all they could handle in a 111-106 double-overtime loss Nov. 25 with Bargnani, Lowry and Valanciunas all in the lineup.
While Bargnani (elbow) and Lowry (triceps) have missed the past six games and are unlikely to return Wednesday, Valanciunas is expected to miss some time after breaking his right finger in Friday's 93-90 win over Orlando. He's started every game at center despite being a 20-year-old rookie, averaging 7.8 points and 5.3 rebounds.
"Very unfortunate," coach Dwane Casey said. "He's growing every time he walks on the floor."
Valanciunas scored a career-high 22 points versus the Spurs, including 11 after the third quarter.
Bargnani's awful performance that day played a role in Toronto losing, scoring four points on 2-of-19 shooting. He appeared to be causing problems off the court Dec. 14 when he told an Italian newspaper the Raptors were "pretty much the worst team in the NBA."
However, that very night, Toronto (9-19) began its current five-game winning streak with a 21-point win over Dallas.
Rookie Terrence Ross had 18 points in that game and scored 13 off the bench Friday, including a couple of highlight-reel dunks.
"He's playing well," Casey said of Ross, drafted No. 8 overall. "He's earning every second he's on the floor, mainly on the defensive end."
Jose Calderon added 13 points and nine assists Friday as he continues to play well in place of Lowry. He's averaged 14.2 points and 10.7 assists over the past six games.
While Calderon is starting for Lowry and Ed Davis for Bargnani, Aaron Gray will likely make his first start of the season to replace Valanciunas.
The Raptors are looking to win six in a row for the first time since March 22-April 4, 2009.
They've dropped four straight in this series and nine of 10 in San Antonio, which is coming off one of its best performances of the season.
The Spurs (21-8) led by as many as 46 points and hit a franchise-record 20 3-pointers in Sunday's 129-91 win over Dallas.
Danny Green went 7 of 8 from long range and scored a career-high 25 points. He totaled 17 points over his previous three games while going 3 for 17 on 3-point attempts.
"Some nights you have it and some nights you don't," Green said. "Good thing we had it (Sunday) - not just myself, but everybody else on the team.
The Spurs also were solid defensively, forcing 20 turnovers and finishing with a season-best 17 steals.
"We don't create that many turnovers normally," coach Gregg Popovich said. "So that's a heck of a night for us as far as steals are concerned. That's not going to happen very often."
Toronto has committed an average of just 9.2 turnovers during its win streak.
Tony Parker added 18 points Sunday and is averaging 22.3 at home this month as the Spurs have gone 6-0. They lost two of their final three home games in November.
Parker is averaging 24.0 points in his last seven versus the Raptors, including 32 last month.
Toronto leading scorer DeMar DeRozan had 29 points in that meeting and has averaged 27.8 in his last four games versus San Antonio.
Spurs force their way to a Win at HOME Sweet HOME despite some Rust from the Holidays!
ALL Spurs TEAM HUSTLE and play STRONG Suffocating D at the end of the game and Win it despite a HUGE Physical Battle from Raptors.
Go Spurs Go
Go Spurs Go!
In spite of the Christmas Day cheer and food, Pop will ensure that this team is ready to play a very dangerous Raptors team. Spurs D will also continue its stingy ways, they win by DD - 110 - 97
With the Raptors series out of the way, I'd like to comment that I am impressed with the way they are coached and their discipline and execution. Its a shame they have had so many injury issues. I foresee them as an under-the-radar team in the future.
Great Win for the Spurs!!!! Spurs came rusty but they turn loose and dropped that hammer of AGGRESSIVENESS in the second half, despite the rust Spurs pulled a very strong willed W with a GREAT D and above average O too...
Not an easy game and I do like the type of improved Raptors team is.
They have a very good defensive mind Coach Dwayne Casey!!!!
I expect Raptors to get better especially since they made some recent roster moves however, I don't know if they can be as good as the Western teams, because the east is too easy and more PHYSICAL than the West is. So I give the Raptors some credit in the Eastern Conf Context, but not that much when looking over our tougher than tough Western Conf context.
Spurs played great, hats off to Pop and his coaching staff in our San Antonio Spurs they deserve a lot of credit!!!!!!
All Spurs played exceptional, Especially Manu, Tony, Timmy D, DannyG, and THE GREAT Leonard.... BUT boy oh boy what an OUTSTANDING game by my main Man Splitter! So glad he is showing much improvement!!!!
Next game is H Town come Friday!
This is going to be a very tough game even if it is at Home Sweet Home! Houston is never an easy team to play....
Go Spurs Go
Go Spurs Go!
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