NBA's Spurs floor Raptors with fourth quarter knockout
By Steve Keating
TORONTO (Reuters) - The San Antonio Spurs showed their class delivering a fourth quarter knockout punch to put away the Toronto Raptors 111-100 Wednesday, underlining their status as the NBA's top team.
Trailing 84-81, the Spurs opened up the fourth quarter with a 15-4 run and never looked back easing to their fourth straight win and improving their record to an NBA best 44-8.
"We're one of the better teams in the league at this point but there are several teams better than us even though our record is better," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich cautioned reporters. "They (Raptors) gave us all we could handle.
"They put us in a lot of situations where it really hurt us defensively and we finally caught up with it in the fourth quarter and held them to 16 and that was the game."
DeJuan Blair paced the Spurs matching a career high with 28 points and 11 rebounds while George Hill chipped in with 18 off the bench and Tim Duncan and Tony Parker each added 16.
Andrea Bargnani had a game-high 29 points in a losing effort for the Raptors, who absorbed their 15th loss in 16 games.
With All-Star forward Chris Bosh leaving Toronto to join LeBron James in Miami, the Raptors have suffered the same fate as the Cleveland Cavaliers plunging to the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.
The Spurs have had troubles on their trips north, losing their previous two visits to Toronto and looked in danger again when the Raptors regained the lead late in the third.
But Toronto could not hold on as the Spurs stepped on the gas in the final quarter outscoring the Raptors 30-16.
The burly Blair grabbed the spotlight from his illustrious team mates Duncan, Parker and Manu Ginobili in the fourth hitting for 16 of his 28 points.
"I play hard, I know there are people way more talented than me," said Blair. "I'm one of the shortest centers in the league but at the same I've got one of the biggest hearts in the league.
"We got enough players to run plays for, I'm just out there to rebound and do all the dirty work."
While Blair downplayed his contributions, Popovich was full of praise for the second year player who has brought some youthful energy to an aging lineup.
"We don't call his number, we don't do anything for him, we don't throw him the ball," said Popovich. "I'm on his butt from the beginning of the game until the end of the game mercilessly and he just ignores me and plays his game.
"It comes out pretty good. He just has a knack, he's just a natural player...he gets it done."
(Editing by Rex Gowar)