The San Antonio Spurs and the Toronto Raptors, two of the NBA's most proven and successful teams, will battle to stay unbeaten in their early-season schedules when they square off on Monday at the AT&T Center in San Antonio.
San Antonio, missing star forward Kawhi Leonard and point guard Tony Parker because of injuries, relied on its defense to win at Chicago 87-77 on Saturday. LaMarcus Aldridge, who has stepped up as the focal point of the Spurs' offense because of the injuries, scored 28 points and had 10 rebounds to lead San Antonio over the Bulls.
Aldridge is just the second Spurs player ever to have 25-plus points and 10-plus rebounds in the first two games of a season (Tim Duncan, 2004-05).
"I've been in a different mindset since the summer started, and that has carried over to training camp to preseason to now," Aldridge said. "My mindset coming into the season was to try to be more dominant."
The Spurs scored 23 points off turnovers in Saturday's win, which was just the 10th victory in team history at Chicago by double-digits and only the second such victory in the past 10 years. It also allowed San Antonio to snap a three-game losing streak at Chicago that was the second-longest in franchise history, behind only a four-game slide from 1986-89.
"Aldridge was just a difference maker for us with the way he scored," San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said after the win. "The defense in the second half and L.A.'s offense was what got us over (the hump). They moved the ball better than we did. I thought they actually executed better than we did."
With the 2-0 start to the campaign, the Spurs have had a winning regular-season record for all but 48 days since 1997, a span of 20-plus years.
Toronto heads to the Alamo City for the only time this season on the heels of a dominating 128-94 home victory over Philadelphia on Saturday. The Raptors got 30 points from DeMar DeRozan -- 23 of those in the first half -- to start the season with two straight wins.
Serge Ibaka added 21 points for the Raptors, while Kyle Lowry had 17 points, Jakob Poeltl and Delon Wright contributed 14 each and Lucas Nogueira tallied 10.
DeRozan was listed as questionable prior to the game because of flu symptoms but obviously found a way through the situation. Lowry said he was not surprised that his backcourt teammate performed well despite being at less than 100 percent.
"That's what he does; I'm not shocked," Lowry said. "The man shot 16 free throws. We gave him a little more time to isolate tonight. Given the opportunity to take his time and be patient, he pretty much gets what he wants."
Lowry's 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter pushed Toronto's lead to 31 points and the Raptors cruised home. The only downer in the game for Toronto was an injury to Toronto center Jonas Valanciunas, who left the game after playing 15 minutes with a sprained ankle. He will have an MRI, according to the team.
The Raptors have defeated Chicago and Philadelphia by a combined 51 points to win their first two games.
Monday's contest in San Antonio is the first of a six-game road trip for the Raptors.
"This part or the schedule is not going to make or break our season, but it's a tough part of the year," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "The good thing is we don't have to go on long road trips after we get this one out of the way."
San Antonio beat the Raptors in both the teams' matchups last season and have a three-game winning streak against Toronto. The Spurs lead the all-time series 31-14 and are 17-4 versus the Raptors at home.