The Toronto Raptors entered last night's play in desperate need of a W. Luckily for the well rested Raptors, the lowly Detroit Pistons were in town for the second night of a back-to-back. Were the Raptors able to take advantage of a tired Pistons ball club? The HQ has your recap of a strange night at the Air Canada Center.
Well, it wasn't pretty but the Raptors got the job done, ending their four-game losing streak with a convincing 103 to 93 victory over the Detroit Pistons.
The Pistons came into the game having competed hard and come up short on Tuesday night against the Cavs. Last night however, they just didn't have the legs as evidenced by their 42 % shooting, which included 2-12 from long distance.
The Raptors, on the other hand were in the complete opposite situation coming in after having 4 days off following that embarrassing loss to the Bobcats on Friday night.
Offensively DeMar DeRozan and Jose Calderon led the charge for the Raptors. DeRozan scored a team high 23 points and grabbed 7 rebounds while Jose Calderon had a game high 15 assists and drove the Raptor offense all night long.
The Raptors got off to a great start thanks to 6 first quarter assists by Calderon which led to a number of easy buckets for the Dinos. The Raptors shot a scorching hot 58% in the first half and out assisted the Pistons 19-7.
Toronto faltered a bit in the beginning of the second half, as the Pistons began to mount a comeback; yet, instead of folding--as the Raptors have been known to do--the Dinos answered back building a 14 point lead through three quarters.
In the fourth the Raps saw their lead grow to 23, but became complacent and allowed the Pistons to cut that lead down to single digits at one point. But in the end, they were able to answer back and come away with the victory, reaching 100 points and granting the fans the free pizza they chanted for, and quite frankly deserved after buying tickets to see these two lottery-bound clubs face off.
Aaron Gray had the game of his season--and possibly his career--which at one point in the 4th quarter included being showered by the fans with chants of "MVP" while at the free throw stripe. Gray tallied 12 points, 12 rebounds and 2 blocks in 29 minutes of action. His effort level at both ends of the floor and on the boards was a huge reason why the Raptors were able to hold off a second half push by the Pistons. Gray's play of late has been turning heads, and has people around the team thinking that he may be an important piece of this club long term--not necessarily as a starter, but at some capacity.
Despite the standout performances by Calderon, DeRozan and Gray, the win was a truly great team effort. 6 Raptors scored in double figures including James Johnson who played great defense and was efficient on the offensive end as well. Amir Johnson pitched in with 11 points and was the beneficiary of a number of great passes from Jose Calderon.
The performance by the Raptors bench made a huge difference in this contest. The Raptors held a 34-21 edge in bench production, highlighted by Leandro Barbosa's 17 points. Ed Davis was also big, scoring 10 points and grabbing 6 rebounds in 21 minutes of action.
The youth movement in Detroit provided most of their spark in this one. Greg Monroe had a game high 30 points and 14 rebounds, and Brandon Knight scored 16 albeit mostly in the second half with the game largely out of reach.
This was Toronto's first look at Brandon Knight since passing on him in favor of Jonas Valanciunas in last summer's draft. Although Knight looked a little sluggish last night, he was coming off of a 25 points, 5 assist game against the Cavaliers the previous night, and has been very solid for the Pistons this season. Knight is a player that Toronto gave a serious look before making their selection in the summer, and some have debated that he should have been their pick at number 5. But of course, this is not a debate we can really have until we see how Jonas Valanciunas fares against NBA level competition next season.
With that as an aside, there is no doubt that the Pistons have a couple of really good players in Knight and Monroe--the latter being a borderline All-Star this season. I might venture to say that the Pistons have a great future with those two players in place, and another blue chipper coming in this year's draft, but with the cap crippling moves Joe Dumars has made, it is tough to be optimistic about the next few seasons for the Pistons.
The Raptors have now completed exactly half of their schedule and will now head into the All-Star Break with a record of 10-23. The record itself is not a great one--good for 5th last in the NBA--but given the injuries that they have suffered, and there overall lack of talent, a poor first half was to be expected.
With just under a week until their next game, the Raptors will have plenty of time to rest and recoup from the beating they have taken at the hands of this compressed schedule. The extra rest time might mean the return of Andrea Bargnani and Linas Kleiza which would make the Dinos a very different team come February 28th.
Speaking of things that could make the Raptors look like a very different team--Wilson Chandler and his agent took this game in from a private box in the ACC, apparently in the city to speak with Raptors management about the possibilities of playing here.
There are conflicting opinions on what exactly Chandler's intentions are, but his mere presence at the ACC last evening is intriguing nonetheless. Adding a player of Chandler's caliber would be a step in the right direction for this club, considering their struggles at that wing spot this season.
Like I said, this team could have a very different look come February 28th