The Toronto Raptors began their preseason with a win on Monday night against Real Madrid. Dwane Casey will be hoping for a similar team effort tonight in what should be a entertaining game against yet another "new-look" Pistons team. In fact, one might even say that this year's Pistons team almost resembles the group that we have here in Toronto!
It seems like yesterday that the Pistons were a perennial Eastern Conference contender. Their fall from grace can be attributed to a variety of factors and it was particularly dire during the ill-fated reigns of Michael Curry and John Kuester. The Detroit Pistons are one of the more interesting teams in the NBA and their development should be of particular interest to the Toronto-faithful.
Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight, Rodney Stuckey and Andre Drummond might not have been at the top of every scout’s board during their respective draft years but they represent a very intriguing core. They also have financial flexibility going forward and seem to be putting their faith in Lawrence Frank. It would be interesting to see if any Raptors’ fans look at their current state with envious eyes.
Tonight should present another opportunity for John Lucas III to get some valuable minutes and show the team what they can do. It’s important for him to continue his strong play as Kyle Lowry will miss this game and Jose Calderon’s future is set to be an area of uncertainty until the trade deadline.
Oh...and did we mention that Jonas Valanciunas participated in a full contact practice yesterday, and is set to make his NBA debut tonight?
As tradition, here are the three keys to a Raptors win:
1) Play Big: Casey highlighted the interior threats that the Pistons possess after practice yesterday and identified that as an area he would be focusing on. Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond are the first names that spring to mind. They will be doing everything they can to cause havoc in the paint and will have seen how the Raptors allowed Real Madrid to attempt 44 free throws on Monday. Jonas Valanciunas will obviously get a chance to run amok (he seems slightly excited to play tonight) but we're guessing he'll get limited minutes to start. Amir Johnson used the term "bully ball" and it will be up to the rest of the big men to stay out of foul trouble and match up with the Pistons on the glass. Hopefully a member of the coaching staff was able to figure out what Drummond’s secret move is.
2) Turn on the Jets: Scott spoke about the need to get out and run when previewing the Real Madrid game. The Raptors have an abundance of athleticism all over the court and quite simply should be getting more fast break points. They only managed 6 against Madrid and will need to do more than that to beat the Pistons. This will be Detroit’s first game of the preseason and they are likely to be a bit rusty at times. Taking advantage of that by getting out on the break should be a priority.
3) Keep DeRozan Determined: This offseason might have been a bitter pill for DeMar DeRozan to swallow. He divides opinion amongst the team’s supporters and it is very hard to tell where he is at in terms of his development. With the additions of Ross and Fields, his playing time is by no means guaranteed. Casey has repeatedly spoken about DeRozan’s need to get to the free throw line more often. It may only be a one game sample but looking at Monday’s performance, the words might have stuck. He shot 6 of 9 from the charity stripe and showed a willingness to play through contact. He also managed to steal the ball 3 times and his overall demeanor had more of an determined vibe to it.