Archive for the ‘Detroit Pistons’ Category

Start time: 6:00 p.m. ET

Channel: Sportsnet One

Probable starting lineups

Toronto: Ben Uzoh, DeMar DeRozan, Alan Anderson, Amir Johnson, Aaron Gray

Detroit: Brandon Knight, Rodney Stuckey, Tayshaun Prince, Jason Maxiell

Injury Report

Toronto: Jose Calderon and Linas Kleiza are questionable, Andrea Bargnani and Jerryd Bayless are done for the season.

Detroit: No injuries to report.

In case you haven’t heard, this seemingly meaningless game is actually kind of a big deal…in the Tank Nation standings.

With teams like the Warriors, Cavaliers, etc. tanking like nobody’s business, and Dwane Casey keeping the Raptors respectable over the last month or so, the Raps now sit tied with Golden State for the seventh and eighth worst records in the league at 22-41. The Pistons, meanwhile, are just one game ahead of Toronto in the standings, so a Raptors win today would actually move the Raps up (or down, depending on how you think of it) into a tie for the NBA’s eighth and ninth worst records.

While we’ve seen time and time again that any team in the bottom eight or so has a chance on lottery night, we’re also aware of the percentages, and the fact that finishing that “high” brings the chance of falling out of the top-10 in the draft, which would be devastating for a rebuilding team like the Raptors.

I’m not saying to expect a game between two organizations that are trying to lose, but I’m not exactly giving this game a ringing endorsement either.

While the Raptors are banged up and come into this game at 10-21 on the road, the Pistons appear to be healthy and surprisingly, have a winning record at home (16-15), so Detroit can probably help Toronto’s lottery chances tonight.

On a sidenote, it may have been a tough season for us Raptors fans, but I’d be a hell of a lot more depressed if I was a Pistons fan right now. The Pistons have some nice young pieces in Brandon Knight, Greg Monroe and Jonas Jerebko, but they need a ton of extra talent and youth if they are going to build this thing the right way, and as it stands, the organization seems confused as to how to go about those building plans.

Detroit already has about $50 million committed for next season, with $40 million tied to veterans like Ben Gordon, Rodney Stuckey, Tayshaun Prince, Charlie Villanueva and Jason Maxiell. I’m assuming they’ll use the amnesty clause to get out from one of their bad contracts, but this has “mess” written all over it unless the Pistons get some lottery luck or can hit a home run on Draft night.

Just so you know, Scott and I aren’t available to post our thoughts on this game, but we’ll be back with a thread and recap for Monday’s game in Milwaukee.

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Lastly, if you need any more indication that this game is basically a Tank-fest, I just read on twitter that MC Hammer will be performing at halftime in Detroit.

P.S. - Jonas Valanciunas’ Lietuvos Rytas team won a big game yesterday to advance to the VTB United League (think of it like a basketball champions league for teams in Northeastern Europe) semifinals. Valanciunas posted 20 points (on 6-of-9 shooting) to go along with nine rebounds, two assists and a couple of blocks (plus three fouls) in about 27 minutes of action.

Start time: 7:30 PM ET
Channel: TSN2
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, James Johnson, Amir Johnson, Aaron Gray
Detroit: Brandon Knight, Rodney Stuckey, Tayshaun Prince, Jason Maxiell, Greg Monroe

Injury report

Toronto: Andrea Bargnani is out for tonight, while James Johnson is expected to play.

Detroit: No injuries reported.

It’s the rivalry of all rivalries! Which of these teams will finish with the third-worst record in the Eastern Conference? Who wants that top-five draft pick the most? This will be the 21st straight game Andrea Bargnani will sit out with what seems to be a severe charley horse, while the Pistons have a conspicuously empty injured list. It appears the Raptors want it more.

These teams met previously on Feb. 22 and the Raptors won 103-93 as six of their players scored in double figures. The Pistons have actually won three out of five games since then, including back to back wins over the Lakers and Hawks. OK, those wins were by a combined four points, but still!

Detroit’s best player is 21-year-old center Greg Monroe, and while I can’t blame Pistons fans for feeling disrespected that he doesn’t get more attention, I can’t get excited about a center who averages just 0.6 blocks on 32 minutes per game. He’s obviously a very offensively skilled big man who is also a pretty good rebounder, but I need my seven-footers to protect the rim. I’ll primarily be watching this game to figure out if I’ve misevaluated him.

Would you be completely surprised if whoever wins the Republican nomination for President this year runs on a platform based on blowing up the moon?

Edit: Turns out Bargnani is not only playing tonight, but he’s starting. Turns out Twitter isn’t the most reliable source, after all.

Game No. 33: Raptors 103, Pistons 93

The Raptors came out of the gates with a great effort to close out the first half of the season with a 10-point victory over the Pistons.

Here are my thoughts on the game:

1- While I wasn’t necessarily excited to watch a matchup between two teams with a combined 20-46 record, I was very interested in seeing how this Raptors team would respond to their first real break of the season. After playing a ridiculous 32 games in 53 days to start the season, the Raps were gifted with four days off between their ugly loss against the Bobcats and Wednesday night’s game against the Pistons. Toronto came out aggressive on both ends of the floor and looked to jump on the Pistons early, as Detroit was on the back end of a back-to-back. I can’t say that I saw anything specific that screamed “practice time” but the Raps definitely brought an energy that a well-rested team should always have, even without guys like Andrea Bargnani and Linas Kleiza in the lineup.

2- A lot of that aforementioned energy came from an unexpected source in Aaron Gray. I’ve given Gray praise throughout the season for his workmanlike game and attitude, but even I couldn’t have predicted what we saw against the Pistons. 12 points, 12 rebounds, two blocks, a couple of dimes and even some “M-V-P” chants in 29 hard earned minutes. The stability and consistency Gray gives Toronto in short spurts is already enough to justify his being here, exploding for nights like this makes his minimal deal an absolute bargain. I’m not saying the guy should be a core piece of the future, but I do think re-signing Gray after this season should be a priority for the Raptors. For the right price, he is an excellent option as a fourth or fifth big.

3- From one positive to another, how about that game from DeMar DeRozan? DeRozan scored 23 points on just 15 shots and contributed elsewhere by grabbing seven rebounds. DeMar mixed in some hard drives to go with a red hot jumper as he took advantage of a smaller guard (Rodney Stuckey) guarding him. He still needs to get to the line more often (finished with six FTA after having four in the first quarter alone) and obviously needs to work on his handle (three turnovers), but it’s hard to harp on the negatives while he continues to put in efficient performances like this. In his last three games, the 22-year-old is averaging over 25 points on nearly 60 per cent shooting and has scored at least 21 points in six of his last nine games. If you expect DeRozan to become a superstar or a true franchise player, than his shortcomings are alarming. But if you simply learn to accept him as a guy who can be a solid piece going forward and perhaps a third option or better in the future, then his string of recent performances is encouraging.

4- The other glaring positive from this game, and the one aspect that probably did have to do with increased practice time, was how well the Raptors shared the ball and how crisp their offence was in general. Playing one of the worst defensive teams in the league probably helped the cause, but I don’t want to take too much away from the Raps, who had an impressive 30 assists on 40 made field goals. Jose Calderon led the charge with 15 assists (compared to just one turnover) and eight of the nine Raptors players who touched the court finished with at least one helper. Even shoot-first guards Leandro Barbosa and Jerryd Bayless finished with four assists each in about 20 minutes of action.

5- A few words on the Pistons. I think Detroit is one of the teams close to Toronto in terms of development and hope for the future, which will make the draft lottery and subsequent draft itself one of the deciding factors in which team ends up with the brighter outlook. The Raptors are in slightly better shape in terms of salary cap flexibility going forward, but the Pistons might have a good young core in place if they can add a top-five pick in 2012 to the group of Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight and Jonas Jerebko. You could say the exact same thing about the Raps with Bargnani, Valanciunas, DeRozan and other possible “core” candidates. If there is one team worth watching in the Tank Nation “standings” from a Raps fan’s perspective, it might just be the Pistons, though I do think they will eventually win enough ball games to give the Raptors the “advantage.” Before blowing a 17-point lead against the Cavaliers on Tuesday, the Pistons had won seven of nine. I don’t think we have to worry about the Raptors going on any kind of run like that this season.

6- While the Raptors and Pistons were entertaining us on the court, the twitter world leaked some interesting Raptors-related notes. During the game, I wrote my take on Wilson Chandler being linked to Toronto again and reports of a draft day trade that almost was between the Raps and Pistons. Check it out and leave your feedback.

It’s crazy to think that half this season is already gone, but at the end of the day, the Raptors are exactly half way to my prognostication of 20 wins, so I’m feeling pretty good about my pre-season predictions.

Raptors Player of the Game: DeMar DeRozan – 39 Min, 23 Pts, 9-15 FG, 0-1 3PT, 5-6 FT, 7 Reb, 2 Ast, 3 TO (Calderon’s spectacular running of the offence and Gray’s work on the boards make them easy candidates here as well)

Pistons Player of the Game: Greg Monroe – 38 Min, 30 Pts, 9-21 FG, 12-16 FT, 14 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 Stl, 2 Blk, 4 TO

I’m not sure how many people were looking forward to keeping an eye on Pistons/Raptors on a Wednesday night, but aside from the game itself, a couple of very interesting Raptors tidbits have emerged.

First and foremost, the Raptors’ official PR twitter account tweeted this:

When rumours first leaked that the Raptors could be one of the teams in on Chandler a few weeks ago, I wrote this on the matter.

My stance on the possibility of Wilson becoming a Raptor remains the same. I think he can be a good NBA player for years to come, but not great, and not good enough to get into a bidding war over. There have been multiple reports over the last little while that the Nuggets are interested in retaining Chandler, who is a restricted free agent after playing in China for the first part of the season.

If Bryan Colangelo can acquire Chandler at a reasonable price and term, then it can be a solid pickup that adds to a decent collection of young talent. But the last thing the Raptors need to do is overpay for a role player that also might affect the team’s lottery position this year.

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The other interesting bit of information that emerged during this Raps/Pistons game came from Pistons.com editor and True Blue Pistons blogger Keith Langlois, who has alerted the world about a potential draft night trade between Toronto and Detroit that apparently fell through when the Cavaliers shocked everyone by selecting Tristan Thompson instead of Jonas Valanciunas.

 

Langlois went on to tweet this:

Based on my interpretation of the tweets, it seems like the two teams would have swapped roster players (one-for-one) and then swapped the fifth and eighth picks. I would assume that Colangelo would have followed through on the deal if Valanciunas went off the board as expected, and then the Raps could have ended up with Brandon Knight or whoever else they wanted at No. 8. You’ll remember that in the “Behind the Draft” special, Colangelo and co. celebrate after the Cavs take Thompson, showing that Jonas was the guy they desperately wanted.

It obviously all worked out fine, but imagine if Colangelo had agreed to the deal before the Cavs made their selection, assuming they would take Jonas? How angry would he have been with himself if after dealing the fifth pick (because he thought Valanciunas wouldn’t be available), he then had to watch the Pistons select his guy? I think it’s safe to say he would be kicking himself for it.

Getty Images

The Raptors seemed sluggish from the get-go, and it bit them in the butt early on.

Just halfway through the first quarter, Toronto had already dug themselves a 15-point hole, and showed few signs of life to get out of it.

As usual as of late, it was the Raptors’ bench that helped pick up the team and get them back in the game. Although the reserves made it a somewhat respectable game in the second quarter, the Raptors just never looked right in that first half and certainly never looked like they were making a legitimate case to stay in the ball game.

Toronto shot the ball well (over 52 per cent) in the first half and trailed by just 11 heading into the break, but anyone watching could see that their only hope of getting a W in Detroit was going to have to come through another Michigan Miracle.

The Raps came out with a noticeable increase in energy to start the second half. They were still knocking down shots on the offensive end, and were starting to come alive at the defensive end, getting deflections and creating turnovers that led to fast breaks.

Unfortunately, they weren’t able to capitalize on those fast breaks, as a couple of offensive fouls on James Johnson and DeMar DeRozan that looked like they could have actually been “and-ones” seemed to deflate the young Raptors.

After cutting the once 20-point deficit down to six early in the third quarter, the Raps faded down the stretch of the third and watched the Pistons build up another double digit lead heading into the fourth.

Pistons fans had to be getting nervous early in the fourth quarter, as the same two players who had led the last Raptors’ resurgence in Detroit, Jerryd Bayless and Leandro Barbosa, were doing it again, and the Raps were suddenly within five with plenty of time remaining.

The difference this time was that the Pistons bent, but never broke, and within a couple of minutes the lead was back to 10 and eventually 13. That swing was pretty much it for the Raptors, as they fell to 31 games below .500 (18-49) and an atrocious 5-27 on the road.

The story of the game was Toronto’s lack of defensive intensity, as they allowed Detroit to shoot 60 per cent from the field in the first half, and 52 per cent overall.

As for the positives on this night, they were few and far between. Sure, the Raptors shot the ball well themselves, but they were really a jump-shooting team tonight and didn’t get to the free throw line nearly enough. Some of that was officiating, but for the most part, it was Toronto’s inability to get anything done inside.

As mentioned, the bench was good again, outscoring Detroit’s bench 36-27.

At the end of the day, the Raptors just lost to a better team (as sad as that statement is when we’re talking about the Pistons) on the road, but also didn’t help themselves by coming out of the gates with little energy.

The loss extends Toronto’s franchise-record road losing streak to 14 games.

Raptors Player of the Game: Leandro Barbosa – 26 Min, 18 Pts, 7-16 FG, 1-3 3Pt, 3-3 FT, 3 Reb, 3 Ast, 2 Stl (DeRozan could be here as well)

Pistons Player of the Game: Greg Monroe – 35 Min, 21 Pts, 9-14 FG, 3-5 FT, 10 Reb, 5 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk