Raptors brace for visit from DeRozan and Spurs

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The Toronto Raptors are starting to get some injured players back, with Norman Powell cleared to play Sunday against the visiting San Antonio Spurs.

The Raptors will be facing their former star, DeMar DeRozan, who will play his second game in Toronto since being traded to the Spurs during the 2018 offseason in the deal for Kawhi Leonard that helped win the NBA championship.

DeRozan is on a hot streak, scoring at least 20 points in his past 10 games and leading the Spurs in scoring in eight straight games.

With Powell set to return, two other injured Raptors are expected to be back soon as well — Marc Gasol and Pascal Siakam — but next week seems more likely.

“Sunday may be a bit soon,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said about having all three back. “But I’m under the direction and guidance of the silver one (director of sport science) Alex McKechnie, and if he clears them to play, we’ll play them and if he doesn’t, we won’t. But I think (Sunday’s) probably a bit ambitious.”

Powell (shoulder), Siakam (groin) and Gasol (hamstring) were all injured in the road victory over the Detroit Pistons on Dec. 18. The Raptors are 6-5 without the three injured players, including a 112-110 overtime road win over the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday.

Fred VanVleet (hamstring) joined them on the sidelines when he was injured late in the road win over the Brooklyn Nets on Jan. 4 and remains out.

“We need to get healthy and stay healthy,” Nurse said. “I think we’re ready to line up with anybody (when that happens).”

“I have to make sure I can be 100 percent and do everything I’m capable of doing and everything that helps my game,” Siakam said. “Until I feel like that, we’re going to take our time with it.”

Nurse expects a period of adjustment once the injured players return, as there was when Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka came back from injuries earlier this season.

“I think, again, we’ve got a little experience with that, right, this year?” Nurse said. “We don’t snap our fingers and think … things are right where we picked up. We understand that there’s a little bit of time that needs to process, get some rust off, get some conditioning back, get some chemistry back, all those kinds of things.”

In Friday night’s 134-121 loss at Memphis, DeRozan led the Spurs with 36 points, nine assists and nine rebounds over 38 minutes. He was 11-for-18 from the field and scored 18 points in the third quarter.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was not pleased with his team’s overall performance against the Grizzlies.

“If you don’t bring it in the NBA, you don’t win,” he said. “I think we had three or four guys who were no-shows, and that didn’t help. .. If (DeRozan) didn’t do what he did, we would’ve gotten beat to death. Too many guys were basically deferring to the basketball gods.”

Toronto and San Antonio split two games last season, with the home team prevailing each time.

DeRozan earned his first career triple-double (21 points, 14 rebounds, 11 assists) last Jan. 3 when the Spurs won 125-107. In the rematch on Feb. 22, Leonard stole the ball from DeRozan to score the go-ahead dunk with 15 seconds to play and the Raptors won 120-117. DeRozan had 23 points.

–Field Level Media

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