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3 in the Key - Raptors' Game-Day Preview vs. Pistons

It's been over 10 years since the Raptors and Pistons met in the playoffs. Both teams are looking to rebuild in the draft but still develop the pieces they currently have. Kinnon Yee looks at a battle between two lottery bound teams in the East.

In years past, I've loathed it when the Raptors played the Pistons.

For whatever reason, the Raptors never seemed to play like themselves whenever going to the Palace of Auburn Hills. Everything gets sloppy, the Raptors seem to play half a step slower, and Detroit always seemed to control the pace.

At the ACC, it was a little better. The Raptors seemed to be able to control the game most of the time, but guys like Rip Hamilton and Tracy McGrady would routinely beat up on our wing men, turning things around.

For whatever reason I've never felt the Raptors "had Detroit's number".

This year, the Pistons have lost both Hamilton and McGrady in the offseason, but still boast Tayshaun Prince, Jason Maxiell, and Rodney Stuckey.

Like the Raptors, the Pistons have been all over the map. From beating the Boston Celtics twice earlier this month, to losing to Cleveland just last night by blowing a 17 point lead, the Pistons have pushed themselves ahead of the Raptors by having a fairly strong February.

As a Raptor fan, I'm thanking the gods for allowing the Pistons to pull themselves above the race for a top draft pick.

However, in tonight's game, I'd like to see the Raptors remain competitive at least. The Pistons are a team coming off a back-to-back where they just lost a close game to the lowly Cavaliers, who have suddenly surged above the Raptors and Pistons. Going into the All Star Break, I'd like for the Raptors to at least remain positive down the stretch so that they can continue building Dwane Casey's vision. If not, at least the Raptors can showcase some tradeable assets to some potential trade partners before the March 15th deadline.

1) Make your coach's dreams come true - Here's what Casey had to say recently "Win, lose or draw, one thing we have to do is establish a culture, maintain a culture. Just because you talk about it, doesn't mean it's going to stay that way..."

As I've iterated before, I don't believe the Raptors have been playing as strongly to Casey's vision as he'd like. Finishing off this game healthy so that Dwane Casey has a full roster going into the All Star Break will give him the opportunity to have a "second training camp"

2) Get a handle on Brandon Knight and Rodney Stuckey - The Raptors usually try to "hide" Calderon when a team comes in with a strong point guard. Brandon Knight is coming off a 24 point effort and Stuckey contributed 16 points. Jose Calderon is going to have his hands full to prevent the penetration from either player but if the Raptors hope to establish an effective defense tonight, it's going to start with how they approach Detroit's guards.

3) "Big" effort - The Raptors bigs are stronger, taller, and arguably more talented than Detroit's front court. In tonight's game, the Raptors need to continue to feed their bigs against Detroit's weaker front court. They cannot allow players like Ben Wallace or Jonas Jerebko to have bigger games than normal. I'm looking especially at Aaron Gray and Ed Davis to keep Detroit's bigs from making the huge plays.