The San Antonio Spurs host the Toronto Raptors on Thursday in the much aniticipated return of Kawhi Leonard since traded to the Raptors last offseason. He comes in guns ablaze after scoring 45 points in a win over Utah on Tuesday. The game also features the first meeting for DeMar DeRozan against his former Toronto team.
Already on top in the Atlantic Division, the Raptors look to move ahead in the Eastern Conference as the halfway point of the season approahces. They are 13-7 on the road and 28-11 overall. For the Spurs, they are second in the Southwest Division, but just eighth in the Western Conference. They are playing well lately, winners of seven of their last ten.
Comparing the two teams statistics, te Raptors have the edge in most major categories. They are ninth in points scored and eighth in points allowed, while the Spurs rank 19th and 12th, respectively. Both teams are hovering near the middle of the league in rebounding. Toronto has a big adavantage in terms of taking care of the ball, ranked 12th in turnovers and the Spurs are 26th.
All eyes will be on the match up between the two starts, Leonard and DeRozan. Leonard is averaging 27.3 points and 8.2 rebounds while providing a solid threat from three-point range. DeRozan is averaging nearly 23 points, six rebounds and six assists.
However, this wont strictly be a one-on-one contest. The Raptors have plenty of depth behind Leonard, lead by Serge Ibaka's 15.9 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. Pascal Saakam and Kyle Lowry can pick up the slack, averaging a combined 29 points per contest, while Danny Green is 41 percent from beyond the arc.
DeRozan will likely get the team's number two scorer, LaMarcus Aldridge involved early. He is averaging 19.8 points and ten rebounds per game. Bryn Forbes, Davis Bertans and Rudy Gay give the Spurs an adavantage from long range, connecting on over 40 percent from three-point range. The Raptors are below the league average in three-point accuracy at 34 percent.
Although there will be plenty of talent on the court that decides the game, the feeling is that the superstar which has the better night will lead his team to victory. In what should be a tight, offensive show, the gut feeling is that Leonard will rise up against his former home crown and win it for the Raptors.