Archive for the ‘Detroit Pistons’ Category

Charlie Villanueva

Oooohhh-weeee! Here’s a barnburner! And by “barnburner”, I mean “If this game was a barn, I would burn it down.” To be honest, my main reason for watching this game will be for me to have something to look at while I exercise tonight. My brother is getting married in three months and I just learned that I’m going to be the M.C. I don’t want the attendees to look at me and ask, “Why is the groom’s younger brother so much fatter than him?”

Earlier this season, it looked like the Pistons were in a hopeless death spiral of mediocrity and in-fighting. Out of the ashes of a once-proud franchise, rookie center Greg Monroe has emerged as a bright beacon of hope for the team’s future. While he doesn’t provide the great post defense I prefer in an NBA center, he’s a decent rebounder and a surprisingly skilled offensive player for a guy his age and size. His .541 field goal percentage and low turnover rate (just 1.5 turnovers per 36 minutes) show that he’s the rare big man who knows what to do with the ball when it’s in his hands.

Is Monroe a player you can build a team around? Probably not, unless his defense improves substantially. But he’s well ahead of the curve in terms of what you’d expect from a 20-year-old big man and all reports out of Detroit indicate he’s hard-working and has a great attitude. When you consider the malcontents he’s forced to play with, just think what he might be able to contribute on a good team populated with players who act like professionals.

Injury report

Toronto: Amir Johnson will miss another game with his sprained ankle, while Alexis Ajinca is questionable with a sore knee

Detroit: Austin Daye is probable for tonight, Jonas Jerebko is out for the season.

Five questions

1. Did Pistons coach John Kuester mean to give between 20 and 30 minutes of playing time to all 10 of the Pistons who played in their 30-point loss to the Bobcats on Sunday?

2. Why have two of Tracy McGrady’s five highest-scoring games this season happened against the Raptors?

3. How awkward do you think the atmosphere in the Pistons’ locker room is these days?

4. If their contracts were the same, would you trade Andrea Bargnani for Greg Monroe?

5. Did you know that Amir Johnson will be on Tim and Sid: Uncut tomorrow? No, I’m not going to try to get his autograph.

Start time: 7:30 PM ET
Channel: TSN2
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, James Johnson, Ed Davis, Andrea Bargnani
Detroit: Rodney Stuckey, Tracy McGrady, Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Greg Monroe

Your pregame song is “The Warning” by Eminem, which might just be the most devastating diss track ever recorded. I think trying to take on Eminem might be dumber than trying to block a Blake Griffin alley-oop attempt.

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

Tracy McGradyThese guys, again? Doesn’t it seem like the Raptors and Pistons have played each other, like, twice already this season? Oh wait, they have. Tonight will mark the third time since Dec. 11 they’ve battled and the season series stands at a win apiece so far.

What makes this game worth watching if you’re not a fan of one of the teams — or even if you are? Personally, I’m intrigued and borderline astonished by the rejuvenation of one Tracy Lamar McGrady, Jr. Including the game he went off for 17/7/7 against the Raptors a few weeks ago, T-Mac is averaging 11.7 points, five assists, four rebounds and shooting 51 percent in 28 minutes per game. I should point out that he’s doing this on a veteran’s minimum contract. Did anybody see that coming? Obviously not, or else he wouldn’t have ended up on the Pistons on a vet-min, right?

Joseph Casciaro is hangin’ with his fam tonight and I’ll be at the stag party of the beloved Raptorman so the recap for this game might not be posted until tomorrow morning. This week has been a little chaotic on the blog what with my insides trying to leave my body for a good part of the week, but I expect we’ll return to our regular posting schedule next week.

Injury report

Toronto: Sonny Weems is still out, Jerryd Bayless is questionable and Amir Johnson is probable for tonight.

Detroit: Ben Wallace is questionable after twisting his ankle on the opening tipoff against the Bulls on Monday. Jonas Jerebko is expected to be out until mid-February recovering from Achilles surgery.

Five questions

1. Did you know that McGrady and Vince Carter have the same middle name? More specifically, am I the only person who has been a fan of the Raptors for the entire existence of their franchise that didn’t know this?

2. How great of a story would it have been if the Raptors had signed McGrady this past off-season and he made his comeback in Toronto?

3. OK, one more T-Mac question — isn’t he better than any small forward on Toronto’s roster?

4. Is Pistons’ coach John Kuester going to last the season? After Rip Hamilton received the first DNP-CD of his Pistons career on Wednesday, Tayshaun Prince referred to Kuester’s decision as “buffoonery”.

5. Since he’s probably available, should the Raptors look into acquiring Hamilton if it means being able to shed the extra year of Jose Calderon’s contract?

Start time: 7:00 PM ET
Channel: TSN
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Linas Kleiza, Amir Johnson, Andrea Bargnani
Detroit: Rodney Stuckey, Tracy McGrady, Tayshaun Prince, Chris Wilcox, Greg Monroe

Joseph wanted me to use the legendary Pistons Jingle Bells video featuring Amir Johnson for our pregame song but he should have suggested that when the Raptors and Pistons played in December. So I’m sticking with Detroit standby The White Stripes and “Blue Orchid”.

Getty Images

Yup, it was that easy for Rip Hamilton and the Pistons

If you were one of the 15 000-plus that paid some of your hard-earned money to watch the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the team basically wiped their you know whats with your money…and laughed while doing it.

The Raptors got off to a fine start, and looked like the better team for much of the first quarter. Then, as they did in Detroit a couple of weeks ago, the Raptors turned the ball over at an astonishing rate and became increasingly lazy. Only this time, there was no miraculous rally. The Raps simply quit.

It was truly hideous to watch for basketball fans, whether you support the Raptors or not. They bumbled and stumbled up and down the court, committed foolish and careless turnovers (23 in total) without being forced into them by the Pistons’ defence, struggled to in-bound the ball, barely raised an arm on defence while Rip Hamilton and Tracy McGrady partied like it was 2005, and worst of all, never looked down about the fact they were being humiliated by a horrible team.

If you saw any post-practice scrums from Tuesday, or read Holly’s practice notes, you likely noticed that most of the discussions were about the players’ plans for the holidays. I’m not suggesting that the Raptors’ practice on Tuesday was insufficient, but just by watching how little interest the team had tonight, you have to wonder if the Raptors had already checked out and were thinking about their mini-vacations. Young team or not, that’s unacceptable for million-dollar athletes.

I guess an eternal optimist can come up with a list of excuses. The Raptors have been banged up for a while. They have barely had enough bodies to practice. Amir Johnson and Andrea Bargnani left tonight’s game (only Bargnani returned afterwards). The Pistons came in fired up after blowing a 25-point lead to the Raptors in Detroit. All of those are viable excuses in a close game, or in a game that just gets away from an inexperienced team late.

But this was a blowout by halftime, in the team’s last game before a five-day break between games. They should have come out and played with an intensity that some call “balls to the wall.”

I’ve been watching the NBA, and sports in general, long enough to know that sometimes blowouts happen, and there is no explanation for it. But at least look disgusted, show some passion, get ejected. Do something to show the paying fans that you give a bleep. On Wednesday night, while being dismantled by the lowly Pistons, from the coaching staff to the last guy on the bench, the Raptors looked as fired up and angry as a group of nuns in a convent.

As bad as the Pistons are, you would have to deduce that the Raptors are significantly worse right now. In two meetings over a span of 12 days, the Pistons have absolutely dominated Toronto for about five quarters, with the Raptors using one incredible 15-minute run to split the two games.

I never saw this Raptors team as a playoff team, but did see them competing for a playoff spot into the final weeks of the season. That’s still possible, given the futility of the bottom half of the Eastern Conference. But a 22-point home loss to the woeful Pistons may be the wake-up call for some of us. At 10-19, with a tough stretch of the schedule ahead, December 22 may be looked back on as the night fans started thinking “draft.”

I am aware that it’s not all gloom and doom in Raptorland. This is still a very inexperienced team with some nice young building blocks. Embarrassing losses like this don’t change that fact.

But being young and inexperienced is never an excuse for not showing up.

And fans, while optimistic about the future, should still be disgusted with what transpired at the ACC on Wednesday night.

Raptors Player of the Game: Linas Kleiza – 38 Min, 19 Pts, 7-11 FG, 1-3 3Pt, 4-4 FT, 5 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 Stl

Pistons Player of the Game: Richard Hamilton – 28 Min, 35 Pts, 13-20 FG, 6-10 3Pt, 3-5 FT, 1 Reb, 2 Ast, 2 Stl

Goat of the Game: Jose Calderon – 37 Min, 5 Pts, 1-6 FG, 1-4 3Pt, 2-2 FT, 4 Reb, 13 Ast, 8 TO

Tracy McGrady and Charlie Villanueva

It says something about the state of affairs on the Detroit Pistons when Rip Hamilton gets benched for Ben Gordon because of the perception that Rip simply isn’t trying anymore. He’s practically been “Mr. Piston” for most of the past decade but in a season where he’s been tossed out of three games already and appears lackadaisical in many others, it seems the current losing culture of the franchise has gotten to him.

Looking at the Pistons’ roster, their veterans seem too old and their youngsters don’t appear to have very much upside. Are Pistons fans supposed to get excited about the NBA futures of Greg Monroe and Austin Daye? Perhaps they can get fired up for this game in the hopes of avenging their loss to the Raptors on Dec. 11 when they blew a 25-point lead over the last 17 minutes of the game. A Detroit win tonight would tie them with the Raptors at 10-19 — and both teams would still be in the playoff hunt since the current eighth seed in the East is Milwaukee at 11-16. In Eastern Conference, playoffs make you! What a conference! /Yakov’d

Injury report

Toronto: Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon are probable, Amir Johnson is questionable, Sonny Weems is doubtful.

Detroit: Tracy McGrady, Rip Hamilton and Austin Day are questionable, Rodney Stuckey is probable.

Five questions

You know what? Not tonight. I’d have to work too damn hard to come up with five questions about this game that I would even care about the answer to. I’m supposed to start my first “real” holiday in over 2 years after today, so excuse me for mailing this one in a little.

Start time: 7:00 PM ET
Channel: Sportsnet
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Linas Kleiza, Ed Davis, Andrea Bargnani
Detroit: Rodney Stuckey, Ben Gordon, Tayshaun Prince, Charlie Villanueva, Ben Wallace

Tonight’s pregame song is “Candy Cane Children” from The White Stripes, because it’s almost Christmas and The White Stripes are from Detroit. This is the last game thread before Christmas and I’ll be on vacation from tomorrow until Jan. 4, but I’ll probably still do all the game threads during that time. I expect Holly and Joseph will have plenty of content to carry all of you into the new year.