You can stare at the stat sheet and wonder how the Raptors lost to the Detroit Pistons. These same Pistons that were totally out of the Eastern Conference as recently as last month. The team "led" by Brandon Jennings. Go ahead, I'll wait. It still won't feel right.
What did you notice? The Raptors shot 54 percent, the Pistons 43 percent. That's a strange stat, for sure. Jonas Valanciunas had a career-high 31 points on 14-for-15 shooting (to go with 12 rebounds). But Jennings had a magnificent 34 points and 10 assists. Surely though you'll noticed only four of JV's points came in the second half, versus Jennings' 21.
Dig deeper and you'll see the Raps had 19 turnovers to the Pistons eight. You'll also slap your forehead at the realization that the Pistons had 22 points off those turnovers (or, alternatively, nine more shots at the basket). They also had more than double the free throw attempts (31 to the Raps' 14).
Strangest of all: Kyle Lowry had zero (as in, none) points after three quarters. And, while he did finish with 12 assists, seven rebounds and 10 points, at times it felt like Lowry forced the action. In fact, it seemed like Lowry was tiredly trying to do too much; his seven turnovers seem indicative of that.
This is the story of the Raptors right now. They can look to a multitude of talent to make a difference in a game, but they also can collectively look tired, out of sorts, or worse, careless.
In Saturday's game against Boston it was a slow first half, and a stick of dynamite second half. Tonight against Detroit, the Raps looked to be cruising on the carry over energy. They started the game with a 60-48 half, while shooting 60 percent from the field (and holding the Pistons to a mere 43 percent shooting). Jonas was unstoppable and while Greg Monroe (22 points, 10 rebounds for the game) and Jennings kept the Pistons around, it looked like Toronto's game.
But Detroit is also in a strange situation. "Totally different," said coach Dwane Casey about the Josh Smith-less Pistons. "A lot like we were last year after the [Rudy Gay] trade. Totally together." And so it was in the second half as the Pistons charged back, hit shots and managed to discombobulate the Raptors just enough for the win.
But I keep looking at the box score. Amir Johnson had a 12 point, 10 rebound double-double. Terrence Ross shot 5-for-11 for 12 points. Greivis Vasquez and his fresh haircut was 7-for-9 for 16 points. James Johnson shot 100 percent on three shots (including a Euro step that may have required a passport). And sill, the Raps lost.
We're left only with questions: Is Lowry getting worn out? Will the team ever look to rely on Jonas in a second half or fourth quarter? Was the Raptors' defense good tonight or just lucky for a stretch? How big of a difference maker will DeMar DeRozan be upon his return?
A month or two ago, these questions didn't come up. But as with all numbers, the Raptors appear to be sliding towards some sort of mean - turnovers where there used to be none, free throw shooting gaps, defensive numbers that rise and fall by the game, or by the half. A general sense of uncertainty.
The Raptors play Philadelphia on Wednesday, an objectively terrible team. But what will the numbers show then? What kind of game will we get? And, ominously, Atlanta looms.
Is it time to worry? What did you guys think of the game?