On Monday night, the Toronto Raptors took on the 9th seed Detroit Pistons. The Raptors were coming off an OT loss on Friday night, when they fell short to the Milwaukee Bucks, 119-122. Despite the exciting finish of a Jonas Valanciuanis dunk at the end of regulation, the Raptors were not playing like themselves. They shot a poor 26% from the three and were out-rebounded by the Bucks, 51 total rebounds to 37. As the season starts to dwindle down and focus starts shifting to the playoffs, the Raptors needed to buckle down going into Monday’s game in order to keep their momentum going in the right direction.
This match up favoured the Raptors in many ways. For one, the Raptors were on the hunt to add another game to their already best-in-the league home record of 24-5, doing their best to stay on top of the East. As Josh Lewenberg tweeted:
Which meant that the loss against the Bucks left a bad taste in their mouth just like the rest of us fans. There’s nothing better than watching this hungry Raptors squad bounce back from a game they knew was theirs. Meanwhile, the Pistons continue to fight for a potential postseason appearance as they sit with a 9-18 road record, putting them 2.5 games behind Miami Heat for the last play-off spot.
So how did the Raptors fair?
Despite the Raptors only leading by 6 at the half (59-53), it was the second half of the game that made all the difference as they ended up defeating the Pistons, 123-94. They had outscored the Pistons 64 to 41 in the second half, part of which included keeping Detroit to just 19 points in the 4th quarter. It should be said that the Pistons are 22nd in the league for FG% and so facing one of the top 10 teams in offense, such as the Raptors, may not have been much of a match-up. However, it seems the theme for this season is to not show mercy despite who the team may be and tonight was no different. The Raptors were effective at both ends of the court as they were able to keep the Pistons to just 38.3% shooting from the field and shot 52.5% from the field themselves. The team was able to put up an impressive 17 three-pointers which is a further testament of the new style of play Coach Casey and his staff have been drilling into this team. Not only was their 3-point shooting impressive but also their willingness to share the ball, as they totaled 31 assists for the game. Though the #benchmob played like their usual dominating selves, it is the starters that get some love tonight. Kyle Lowry (20), DeMar DeRozan (20) and Serge Ibaka (19) combined for 59 points and the bench as a whole made up 22 of the 41 total rebounds.
Honourable mention must go to Kyle Lowry, who had 6 of those 3’s and shot 75% from beyond the arc. Take that in... he went 6 for 8 from the three! Where was this kind of showing at the 3-point contest Kyle?! And of course we have to show big love to Jakob Poeltl for gathering enough Poeltl Power to put Andre Drummond on a poster with this dunk....
With just 23 games left until playoffs, the Raptors really need to use the time they have left to tighten their ship. Even though it may appear to be a lighter schedule, a handful of the remaining games are against key opponents like Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, OKC Thunder and Houston Rockets. From the way this team has been playing, it’s evident that they really are 11-men deep and even 12-deep on their best night. With each game that passes by, it’s another opportunity for the second unit to play together which prepares them for, what will hopefully be, a deep playoff run. They have proven that they are able to play in high-pressure situations in games like the Cavs blow-out and the GSW comeback, so they can only get better from here. As we get later into the season, it’s becoming very evident that the squad that Masai and his front office have put together is turning into something really special. This kind of depth is unprecedented for this new era Toronto Raptors and so it’s hard to not think about watching some competitive basketball late into the spring and even summer.