The Raptors had plenty of reason to come out with one of their more spirited efforts of the season.
They should have still been angry after being jilted by poor officiating on Wednesday. They should have had retribution on their minds after being embarrassed by the Pistons, at home, already this season. In addition, this was their last home game (and a very winnable one, at that) before embarking on a grueling five-game road trip.
Instead, the Raptors responded with one of their worst games of an already bad season.
By the looks of it, the Raps were not prepared and lacked the focus necessary to grab a win in the NBA. They came out sluggish, almost looking like they expected the win to fall into their laps. This was mind-boggling to watch, since it’s not like they have had much success against the Pistons this season (other than a miraculous 15-minute stretch in Detroit).
The Pistons attacked the feeble Raptors in the first half, and held a lead as large as 15 before Toronto began to fight back. A couple of technicals given to DeMar DeRozan and Jay Triano (for arguing against more sketchy officiating) seemed to spark the Raptors at the end of the half, and the Raps used a late run to cut the deficit to just seven at the break.
After allowing the Pistons to shoot 57 per cent in the first half, Toronto picked up the defence in the third quarter, but it was their offence that began to let them down. Instead of cutting further into the lead, the Raptors actually lost ground in the third, and headed to the fourth down nine.
As awfully as the game was going for Toronto, there was still a sense that if they could string together one solid run, the game could be theirs for the taking. Unfortunately, on this night, the Raptors were barely able to string together a series of solid possessions, let alone play one solid quarter.
They had their moments in the fourth, which included Andrea Bargnani making things interesting in the dying minutes. But in the end, it was not to be, as Tracy McGrady and Tayshaun Prince hit a couple of daggers and Jose Calderon and others committed a couple of careless turnovers to seal the ball game.
As bad as the team-defence was in the first half, the offence may have been worse in the second. The offensively challenged Pistons scored 61 points over the first 24 minutes, and were then limited to just 40 the rest of the way, which included an 18-point fourth quarter. But the Raptors could never capitalize, scoring just 41, themselves, in that second half.
The Pistons are now 4-17 on the road, and two of those four wins have come at the Air Canada Centre.
As for the Raptors, things are likely about to get ugly. They lost Leandro Barbosa at the end of the first half to an apparent hamstring injury, and he will not travel with the team on their upcoming trip.
So now Toronto heads to Washington on the back end of a back-to-back, then travel to New Orleans, San Antonio, Orlando and Miami. Yikes.
For those of you having trouble accepting that this team is probably going to fall out of the playoff race and start looking towards the draft, I have a feeling it will become easier to understand in the next week or so.
Raptors Player of the Game: Andrea Bargnani – 35 Min, 31 Pts, 12-25 FG, 0-2 3Pt, 7-9 FT, 9 Reb, 3 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk
Pistons Player of the Game: Tracy McGrady – 36 Min, 22 Pts, 8-17 FG, 2-3 3Pt, 4-5 FT, 4 Reb, 5 Ast,
Goat of the Game: Jerryd Bayless – 12 Min, 3 Pts, 1-5 FG, 1-3 3Pt, 2 Reb, 2 Ast, 2 TO