TORONTO • As the National Basketball Association (NBA) continues into the second half of the season, there will be nights when grit and defensive work - in place of scoring - can grind out victories.
The Toronto Raptors did just that on Friday at the Air Canada Centre to edge out the San Antonio Spurs.
There was nothing overly exuberant about their 86-83 win but Raptors coach Dwane Casey approved of his side's performance.
He said: "We're going to have a lot more of them. We're going to see a lot more like that than any other type of game right now."
Kyle Lowry scored 24 points and DeMar DeRozan added 21 as Toronto improved to 31-13, behind only the Boston Celtics (34-12) in the Eastern Conference standings.
Jonas Valanciunas added 15 points and took 12 rebounds for the Raptors, who won their second straight game and their first win over the Spurs in over two years - the last time was December 2015.
But it was Toronto's lowest-scoring game of the season on Friday; they average more than 112 points per game. "Just being aggressive," Lowry said. "It's that time of year when everyone is kind of hitting a little bit of a rut, a little bit of a lull. We've got to continue to get better and take the step on the journey to making us a better team."
LaMarcus Aldridge led San Antonio (30-17) with 17 points and 13 rebounds while Pau Gasol added 15 points and nine rebounds.They were without injured forwards Kawhi Leonard and Rudy Gay and guard Manu Ginobili.
The Raptors played some of their best basketball in the first half, even though they had to shrug off a ragged start to forge a 44-37 lead at half-time. It was their defence who took centre stage in the half, limiting San Antonio to 32.6 per cent shooting and a two-for-seven showing on three-point shots.
Overall, they held the Spurs to 34.1 per cent (31 out of 91 attempts) from the floor, although they shot just 40 per cent themselves. San Antonio's season-worst was 33.7 per cent in an Oct 27 loss at Orlando.
"We played good defence," added Lowry. "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."
DeRozan also praised Valanciunas' defensive work, as he kept Aldridge scoreless in the second and fourth quarters.
DeRozan said: "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."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE