Toronto 129 San Antonio 104
TORONTO — Fred VanVleet continues to make a mid-season push to be named to the NBA all-star game in Cleveland next month.
The Toronto Raptors guard went over the 30-point mark for a third straight outing, this time scoring 33 points in a 129-104 win over the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday.
Toronto (17-17) captured a third consecutive victory to reach the .500 mark for the first time since Nov. 13 when it was 7-7. San Antonio (14-22) lost its fourth straight game.
“I think he’s got to be in the (all-star game) conversation,” Toronto head coach Nick Nurse said. “But I’ll say the same thing; we’ve got to climb the standings.
“I just think that’s part of it.”
VanVleet went 7-for-14 from beyond the three-point arc. He has scored 31, 35 and 33 points in the three wins before a near-empty Scotiabank Arena because of Ontario’s tightened COVID-19 restrictions.
“I think you recognize when you’re in a rhythm, and you just try to hold on as long as possible because it’s not always like that,” VanVleet said. “When you’re hot, I think you’ve just got to be aggressive and ride it out as long as you can.”
Even though Toronto players Yuta Watanabe and Svi Mykhailiuk entered the league’s health-and-safety protocols earlier on Tuesday, VanVleet has benefited recently from a healthy lineup and the return of Pascal Siakam.
All five Toronto starters hit double figures.
Siakam enjoyed a double-double with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Guard Gary Trent Jr. added 21 points while OG Anunoby scored 14, and rookie Scottie Barnes chipped in 11 and a career-high nine assists.
Barnes and Siakam also have pitched in carrying the ball up the court, leaving VanVleet free to score off his catch-and-shoot specialty.
“I think just the position we’re in now with having everybody back, I think we can kind of find our own natural roles, which has been a little bit of an issue this year with having guys in and out and guys having to do more than expected,” VanVleet said. “So I think we’re finding our natural rhythm of where our team is going to be for now and obviously feeling pretty good.”
Justin Champagnie, who reports for duty every morning at 8:30 a.m. to work on his jump shot, came off the bench to contribute 14 points for the Raptors, making five-of-six shots, including four three-pointers. Big men like Chris Boucher and Khem Birch were influential despite scoring only four points and three points, respectively.