Jose Calderon and the Pistons took advantage of a lazy fourth quarter effort from the Raptors, spoiling Rudy Gay’s great game and officially eliminating Toronto from post-season contention in the process.
Here are some thoughts on the game…
- The Raptors were up 11 points with less than three minutes remaining in the third quarter and looked like they were on the cusp of blowing it open as they did on Friday night in Detroit, but a lazy end to the third (13-7 Pistons run in 2:42) carried over into another fourth quarter collapse, as the Pistons outscored Toronto 33-19 in the final frame. The most frustrating part was that the Raptors actually put together a quick 12-2 run in a two-and-a-half minute span of the fourth that saw them go from down nine to up one with 4:32 remaining, but the Pistons again responded with a 15-4 run to close out the game.
- The big storyline coming into this game was the return of Jose Calderon, who got two standing ovations from the appreciative crowd (one during the introductions and another when a video tribute was shown) and was clearly fighting back tears the second time around. Calderon finished with 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting to go with nine assists in the Pistons’ win. Where he ends up as an unrestricted free agent this summer and how much money he earns will be very interesting to monitor.
- Rudy Gay absolutely dominated the Pistons tonight, showing off his offensive arsenal and his recently improved three-point stroke in scoring 34 points on 13-of-18 shooting from the field and an impressive 4-of-4 from deep. Gay was patient with his own offence, moved the ball when he needed to, crashed the glass and was solid defensively. If you’re keeping track, Gay is now averaging 20.6 points on 53 per cent shooting and 44.8 per cent shooting from behind the arc over his last eight games. Rudy’s not that good of a shooter, but he’s much better than what he showed for a large chunk of this season.
- DeMar DeRozan may have had a good basic stats night (15 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals), but he shot the ball horribly (7-of-17), held the rock for way too long at times and had his lack of ball handling skills brutally exposed by the Pistons in the fourth quarter. For as much as DeRozan has improved his court vision and play making abilities in terms of creating for others, he still lacks the necessary ball handling ability to get to the next level as a wing player in the NBA. More than anything else (yes, even more than he needs to add a dependable three-point shot), DeMar has to come back next season with a tighter handle.
- One of the only intriguing things to watch coming into this game was the matchup of rookie big men between Jonas Valanciunas and Andre Drummond. Well it turns out it wasn’t much of a matchup after all, as Valanciunas took a lazy Drummond to school from start to finish. If you recall my draft lead up last season, the Drummond you saw tonight is the one that showed up too many times for UCONN last season and the one that scared many people away despite his obvious physical talents.
As for Valanciunas, the Raptors’ rookie continued his recent tear with 17 points, six rebounds and five blocks, three of which were on Drummond.
- Speaking of Raptors rookies, tonight had to be the first time that all three were on the floor at the same time, right?
Ross had another tough game and didn’t exactly earn any more than the 12:47 of playing time he saw, but Quincy Acy was very encouraging in his first taste of NBA action in exactly a month. Acy finished with four points, three rebounds and an assist in less than eight minutes of action as he continues to show flashes of NBA competence in the short spurts he gets on the court this season. No one is expecting Quincy to become a starter or big time contributor, but I remain convinced that he has a role as a dependable energy guy (and combo forward) off of the bench in the future.
-Kyle Lowry sparked that aforementioned 12-2 Raptors run midway through the fourth with some aggressive defence on one end and some vintage Lowry penetration on the offensive end. Unfortunately, despite a decent statistical night of nine points and seven assists, we still didn’t see that aggressive Lowry on offence as much as we all hoped for against Jose.
When it comes to point guards though, the only thing this game really reminded me of was just how bad this Raptors team needs a competent backup one heading into next year. And no, I will not accept Telfair as that guy even if he were to go off over the final eight games.
- Amir Johnson didn’t look like his usual energetic self tonight and has generally looked a step or two slower over the last week or so. I’m not going to hold it against him though, as Amir has been arguably the team’s best player and hardest worker this season while sacrificing his body almost nightly. If he is really banged up or broken down after a grueling season however, perhaps the Raptors should consider giving him some time off to finish the season. If anyone’s earned it, it’s Amir, and I wouldn’t mind seeing Acy get some extra burn over these next couple of weeks.
Raptors Player Of the Game: Rudy Gay – 34 Pts, 13/18 FG, 4/4 3PT, 4/4 FT, 6 Reb, 5 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk, 1 TO in 40:16
Pistons Player Of the Game: Greg Monroe – 24 Pts, 10/18 FG, 4/4 FT, 4 Reb, 4 Ast, 1 Blk in 37:54