Good teams can defeat inferior opponents without necessarily firing on all cylinders. The Raptors have shown time and again this season that they can take care of the teams they should be able to beat. The Detroit Pistons, talented as they may be on paper, certainly qualify for that "inferior" label. Toronto had no problem dispatching Detroit, and led pretty much from start to finish to take this tilt 101-87.
The Raptors stormed out to a double digit lead right out of the gate. Kyle Lowry, who's been dealing with somewhat of a shooting slump, hit a couple of 3s to get his mojo back to some extent. Jonas Valanciunas did a commendable job against Andre Drummond on the glass. The Pistons generally lacked offensive flow and cohesion as the Raptors took a 29-21 lead into the 2nd quarter.
The 2nd quarter saw the re-emergence of a recurring theme this season, where the Raptor bench comes out lacking spacing and energy and blows the lead the starters earned. Detroit managed to tie it up at one point in the quarter, but Dwane Casey acted quickly to get a more balanced lineup on the floor and restore the advantage. Although the quarter was clearly in Detroit's favour, the Raptors took a 52-45 lead into the break.
The starters began the 2nd half not too differently from the first. Amir Johnson and JV were stifling Detroit's interior-oriented offensive game plan and the Raptors were riding a resurgent Kyle Lowry to take a double digit lead once again. When the bench came in, yes, the Raptors coughed it up. To be fair, Brandon Jennings caught fire and hit some ridiculous shots to bring Detroit within shooting distance of the lead. The Raptors closed the quarter leading 74-69, with some work to do to finish off the Pistons.
In the final frame, Casey rode his horses almost all the way through. He did a good job mixing the bench and starters to have more balanced lineups on the floor. Toronto cruised for the majority of the 4th quarter and earned the 101-87 win - a big one considering the charge Brooklyn's making.
- The Starting Bigs: The main concern going into this game was whether the Raptors, given their recent defensive rebounding issues, would be able to hold fort against a potent Pistons front court. Amir Johnson and JV emphatically slammed the door shut on those concerns as they bullied and battered Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond all game (Drummond was a -33 on the night). Hopefully the strong inside play continues as the playoffs near. Amir had 20 and 9 on 14 shots, while JV had 8 and 13, to go with 2 blocks. DeMar and Kyle Lowry were good in this one too.
- The Bench: With Patrick Patterson missing, the bench is clearly significantly weakened. Trotting out one-dimensional bigs like Hayes, Hansbrough and Novak really highlights the value of Patrick Patterson's versatility to this team. The drop-off in bench play has been noticeable without PPat. On the wings, John Salmons is a savvy defender and a willing playmaker, but really doesn't help spacing all that much. When he has an open three point shot off of a drive and kick, I'd like to see him take it instead of pump-faking and driving into a crowded paint. This issue becomes even more apparent in the absence of a stretch 4 like Patterson. I wouldn't mind seeing Landry Fields get some of Salmons' playing time.