A huge third quarter helped the Raptors run away from a lifeless Pistons team in Detroit, snapping a five-game losing streak for Toronto.
Here are some thoughts on the game…
- Friday’s third quarter in Detroit was about as dominant as you’ll see the Raptors look this season and about as bad as you’ll see a Raptors opponent play. Credit the Raps for playing with some purpose and running the floor, but the Pistons were just God awful in that third frame and definitely looked like they had quit on Lawrence Frank by that point. The Raptors outscored the Pistons 36-15 in the quarter, with Rudy Gay outscoring Detroit on his own.
- Gay’s performance in that third quarter was yet another example of how quickly he can score in bunches. Rudy looked stiff and out of rhythm in the first half, scoring just two points on 0-of-3 shooting from the field, but he scored 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting in the third to finish with a solid 21 points on 14 field goal attempts. Despite his back issues and the team clearly just playing out the string, it doesn’t look like Rudy is going to mail it in, which is more than you can say for other “star” players on bad teams, though I’m fully aware that whether Gay even is a star is up for debate.
The more encouraging development in Gay’s game recently is that it finally looks like he’s found his three-point stroke again, as he’s shooting over 36 per cent from behind the arc over his last six games. Rudy’s also shooting over 50 per cent from the field in that six-game stretch.
By the way, was I hearing things on my TV, or did the Raptors fans in attendance at The Palace start an audible “Rudy” chant in that third quarter?
- The frontcourt of Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas continues to be one of the few bright spots in this final stretch of this season. Despite playing on a hurting leg, Amir put up the kinds of numbers we’ve come to expect from him with 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting to go with eight rebounds and two blocks in over 37 minutes of action. As for Valanciunas, the big fella had one of the most promising games of his rookie season thus far, going off for 14 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks (though he also committed four turnovers) while showing off his rapidly expanding offensive game. As a combo, Johnson and Valanciunas combined for 34 points on 72.7 per cent shooting, 21 rebounds and six blocks.
I’ve said it before, but at a combined age of just 45 years, the Johnson/Valanciunas combination might just be the frontcourt of the future in Toronto.
- The much hyped Jose Calderon vs. Kyle Lowry matchup at the point didn’t exactly live up to the billing. Calderon was virtually invisible after hitting a couple of early threes and was reamed out by Lawrence Frank during Detroit’s disastrous third quarter, while Lowry still wasn’t nearly as aggressive as I’d like him to be in settling for just four field goal attempts. Given that he dished out a game-high 11 assists and came out on the winning end of a blowout though, Lowry definitely gets the nod in tonight’s battle against Jose.
Lowry actually has 35 assists over his last four games.
- DeMar DeRozan didn’t get to the free throw line enough (just one attempt) for a guy who took 20 shots, but his overall game was fine, as DeRozan finished with 21 points (on 50 per cent shooting), four rebounds, three assists and three steals in just under 33 minutes.
- All in all, beating up on an atrocious Pistons team that’s been beaten up a lot lately doesn’t say much for the Raptors, and it’s a bad result for Raps fans who hope the team can slide backwards into their top-three protected draft pick this June, but there were a few encouraging signs to take out of this game (most notably the continued play of Johnson and Valanciunas) and it was nice to see Toronto come out on the other end of a laugher for once.
Raptors Player of the Game: Amir Johnson – 20 Pts, 9/11 FG, 2/2 FT, 8 Reb, 2 Ast, 2 Blk in 37:34
Pistons Player of the Game: Jonas Jerebko – 20 Pts, 9/14 FG, 0/4 3PT, 2/2 FT, 5 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 TO in 28:29