And Linas Kleiza halfway through.
The above names represent the members of the Toronto Raptors who missed practice yesterday thanks to injury.
It sounds like all but Reggie and Peja will be available to play this evening, but there are no guarantees. Against the Lakers Andrea Bargnani became a late scratch, and Amir Johnson had to leave numerous times thanks to a back that was acting up.
Luckily the Detroit Pistons, Toronto's opponent tonight, haven't been faring much better.
They're healthier to be certain, but had lost 8 of 9 matches up until three games ago. The team's now won 2 of their last 3, but have yet to crack the 10 win mark on the season, and now, rumours are swirling around the Pistons camp that RIP Hamilton has quit on the team.
Everyone remembers the last time these teams met of course.
Just over a week ago the clubs met in Auburn Hills where Toronto pulled off their greatest comeback in club history, rising from the dead and a 25 point late third quarter deficit to eventually win 120 to 116.
Jerryd Bayless had 31 points in the win, but it was an all-out team effort that got the job done...
...which happens to be our first key for tonight:
1) Team play. There's no telling who's playing and who's not at this point, and no telling how effective any of the players we listed above will even be. So to get their 11th W on the season, the Raptors are going to need an all-out team effort this evening. The Pistons are no Lakers, but they've beaten two tough teams of late, the Atlanta Hawks and New Orleans Hornets, so if Toronto doesn't come out aggressive, another miraculous comeback will likely not be enough.
2) Wing play. Against the LA Lakers, Raptors' fans saw some great play from the likes of DeMar DeRozan and Linas Kleiza, great play that was enough to keep Toronto in the game without their leading gun, Andrea Bargnani. We'll assume Andrea is back tonight but regardless, I'm looking to see more of the same from Toronto's wings this evening. DeRozan in particular needs to start showing that he's taking the next step in his career and games like these are perfect opportunities for him to shine. Ben Gordon, starting in place of Mr. Hamilton, shouldn't be able to offer much resistance on D, and I'll be looking to see DeMar not only create for himself, but for others since he should be able to break Gordon down, and force other Pistons to help out.
This key though isn't simply about effectiveness on the offensive side of the ball though. DeRozan will likely spend a good chunk of time chasing Gordon around on D and must limit his open looks. Gordon has been a Raptors' killer in the past, and guys like Kleiza and Weems (assuming he plays) need to be locked in on scorers like Hamilton and Prince too.
3) Get out and go. This piece to me is probably the biggest key to a win tonight for TO. The Pistons play a fraction off the league's slowest pace and the Raptors...well, they're pretty much at the opposite end of the spectrum. So to me a lot of this game is going to come down to style of play, and who can force their preferred methodology on their opponent.
A good part of this then revolves around maintaining possession.
Toronto is still one of the better rebounding clubs in the league, and if they can secure defensive rebounds, make crisp outlets and get out on the break, it probably will be a long afternoon for the Pistons. The Dinos were extremely effective using this game-plan even in the loss to the Lakers, and the Pistons, one of the league's most woeful offensive clubs, will have a hard to keeping up.
However should the Raps not be able to secure boards, or should the recent turnover issues continue to rear their ugly heads, this one could easily end up being Toronto's 19th loss. Detroit is one of the best teams in the league at taking care of the basketball, so Toronto ensure they don't keep giving the boys from Motorcity second-chance opportunities.