A rare poor shooting night for Kyle Lowry, and a rare efficient night for Josh Smith resulted in a 10 point victory for the Raptors as they won 110-100 in the Palace of Auburn Hills. The Raptors sent a fan bus across the border to Detroit, and the dedicated #WeTheNorth clan did not disappoint. To make their presence felt, "M-V-P" chants were ringing through the Palace as Lowry shot his first free throws of the game at the 6:10 mark in the first quarter.
The Pistons started the game off strong, riding Josh Smith as he played to his strengths and consistently attacked the basket. The game had an oddly complacent feel to it. Despite it feeling like the Raptors were playing poorly and the Pistons dominating, a quick glance at the score during the first half always showed the Raptors to be within striking distance. As Greg Monroe worked his way to a 10 point first half, the Raptors were able to tie the game by the halfway point largely due to the strength of the bench, including some unexpected offense from Chuck Hayes who finished the game with 9 points on a perfect 4 for 4 from the field and 1 for 1 from the free throw line.
To start the second half, it seemed as if the Raptors decided to try on the moniker "We the Third." The Raptors stormed out in the third, exposing the slow-footed nature and poor communication of the Pistons' defense. Detroit consistently failed to guard the Lowry/Vasquez/Williams - Valanciunas pick and roll. Jonas benefited hugely from the fact that Detroit was caught ball watching during his rolls, allowing him to finish the night with 17 points on 11 shots.
Although tonight was truly a team effort which involved impressively efficient nights from Lou Williams and Patrick Patterson, the x-factor was James Johnson. Whether it was Caron Butler or Jonas Jerebko, the Pistons had no answer for Johnson's athleticism and relentless drives to the basket. At the 6:42 mark of the fourth quarter, the Pistons' frustration boiled over as Andre Drummond aggressively hip checked Johnson to the floor earning himself a flagrant 1 foul. Why would Drummond do such a thing you ask? It may have something to do with what Johnson did on the previous play.
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After the Raptors extended the lead in the third, the Pistons went on a mini-run late in the fourth to make the final score more respectable. However, it was readily apparent that the Pistons simply lacked the talent to keep up with the Eastern Conference leading Toronto Raptors. The win moves the Raptors to an impressive 21-6, putting them a full game ahead of the 2nd place Washington Wizards.
Toronto will get a night of rest tomorrow before returning home to play the New York Knicks. Although the Raptors have shown this season that the Knicks don't present a worrisome match-up, a cause of concern is that the Sunday matchup has the make-up of a trap game. Hopefully Toronto doesn't make the mistake of looking ahead to the Chicago game on Monday, and takes care of Derek Fisher's team before heading over to the windy city.
What did you guys think?