The Raptors had to dig a little deeper to fight off a Detroit team with returning injured stars Tayshaun Prince, Rip Hamilton, and Ben Gordon. With the Raptors pulling off a win, Vicious D looks at what the Raptors did in order to pull out a victory.
If you were like me and you were out and around the city catching bits and pieces of the game, you might be surprised that the game was as close as it was. With the Raptors leading 60-41 at the half, I sure thought the Raptors were well on their way to another victory.
However, as I sat down for some good fish and chips at Lucky's all the way up in Newmarket, I almost choked on my halibut as the Raptors were only up two in the fourth.
The game started well enough with a lop-sided first half where the Raptors did most of what was needed thanks to a focused effort to attack Detroit from all over the court. Chris Bosh, Andrea Bargnani, and Marco Belinelli kept mixing up their games and made things extremely difficult for Detroit as the Raptors built a lead by attacking the paint. The starters managed to build a lead despite Detroit's pride to do better than their last game against the Raptors. The Raptors' bench then gave the starters some well deserved rest and extended the lead. All was well as the Raptors were up by 19 points at the half.
In the second half, the Raptors started to let Detroit back into the game by allowing themselves to be pushed out to the perimeter. As was often the case during their losing streak, the Raptors just could not find their way inside their opponent's defense which led to a considerable dip in their offensive efficiency. With the Raptors only scoring 14 points in the 3rd quarter, Detroit mounted a comeback.
Led by their returning injured warriors, Hamilton, Prince, and Gordon, the Pistons continued to attack the Raptors with some good shots and a lot of rebounds. Thanks to Rodney Stuckey, Ben Wallace, and rookie Jonas Jorebko, Detroit out rebounded the Raptors 40-36. All three managed to get to the glass for put backs and second chance points and just outworked the Raptors for every rebound. Once again, the Raptors offensive choices lead to this demise, but give Detroit credit for initiating their comeback thanks to their tenacious defense.
Nevertheless, the Pistons were also helped out by the generous calls the referees started to give them. Sparked by an aggressive Marco Belinelli, Richard Hamilton started getting into the referees heads and the refs started to light up the Raptors almost as badly as the Pistons did. Of particular note were a couple of phantom calls that were made against Andrea Bargnani thanks to some aggressive flopping by the Pistons. Bargnani has been getting a bad rap around the league, but it was particularly egregious when Rodney Stuckey was hardly touched and official Bernie Adams, standing with a direct view, called a foul on the play.
Fortunately, the Raptors pulled out a win thanks in large part to Andrea Bargnani's persistence on the offensive end. Posting up Jorebko and getting a three-point play and taking the Pistons' most effective offensive rebounder out of the game thanks to his sixth foul, it was this particular play that turned the tide for the Raptors. Bargnani also hit a few clutch shots down the stretch and also managed to grab some necessary rebounds from Ben Wallace to close out the game.
What was surprising for me yesterday was just how much burn Jay Triano decided to give Antoine Wright. With Wright in the game in the first half, the Raptors continued hitting their shots, so his inclusion in the game was not particularly detrimental. However, when the Raptors' offense was sputtering in the second half, Wright was on the floor instead of Weems or Belinelli and didn't provide any particularly strong defense against the Pistons. So it was particularly confusing to see just what had happened to earn Wright a reprieve. Perhaps it was just because Marco Belinelli was in foul trouble, but it will be interesting to see just where Wright's minutes will come from and why he's earned the extra time.
With this win, the Raptors have made it four in a row, for a new season best streak. Now only two games under .500, the Raptors are in position to make a run in January if they can get a couple more bodies back and maintain their newly found confidence and focus. However, the Raptors will have to test themselves soon with just Charlotte on the schedule before facing both the Celtics and Spurs at the end of this week. The Raptors set out to make the best of their schedule and we should be glad that this team has finally discovered their winning ways, but there is still lots of work to be done before I can confidently say that this team has turned the corner. They still do not have a handle on how to win games when a team fights back against them, and until they are tested again, I will still reserve judgement.
For now though, I will enjoy my last holiday weekend meal for 2009 and tip my hat to the Raptors for not giving up and for getting a well deserved win.