Suddenly, the top of the Eastern Conference has a bit of a cushion. All season, seeds two to ten have been separated by around five games and much of the talk has been about parity in the Eastern Conference. While the Cavaliers clearly remain the class of the East, your very own Toronto Raptors have made a bold statement in separating themselves from the rest of the pack. After this historic 10-game win streak, The Raptors now sit 2.5 games back of Cleveland and a 4.5 games up on the third place Bulls.
The Pistons are Stan Van Gundy's vision of recreating Dwight Howard's Orlando Magic. With a solid pick and roll ball-handler in Reggie Jackson, Andre Drummond doing an admirable impression of Dwight Howard, and shooters surrounding them, the Pistons are in line to make their first playoff appearance since 2008-09. Sitting in 7th place at 25-22, they come to Toronto on a road back to back, having lost in Cleveland last night. Detroit's an average team by almost every metric. In terms of pace and offensive efficiency, they're right around the middle of the pack. They grade out slightly above average in defensive efficiency, on the backs of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Andre Drummond's shot blocking.
Things to Look For:
Containing Andre Drummond
Andre Drummond is in the midst of a monster season, putting up 17 points and 15 rebounds and sucking up space on both ends of the floor. While questions remain about his abysmal free throw shooting (35% on the year), the Pistons are a better team with him on the court on both ends of the floor. Jonas Valanciunas and Bismack Biyombo will have to do the unenviable job of keeping Drummond off the offensive glass, where he pulls down per game. Valanciunas, in particular, has had some success against Drummond, and he'll have to continue that trend in order to keep this streak going.
I'm excited that people will get a chance to see KCP properly. Highlight tapes and reading about his defensive acumen don't do his game justice. He's a legitimately good player. While his three-point shooting is streaky, he's clearly justified his selection in the lottery by the Pistons. Same as Drummond, the Pistons are better with him on the floor on both ends. I'm interested to see how he deals with his matchup with DeMar DeRozan, and going a step further, he's sort of a remixed Terrence Ross -- less shooting, better defence and energy. The best part about seeing a team like this is getting a chance to experience a young, highly-touted player. Keep an eye out for him.
This really, really, really bothers me when it comes to Dwane Casey. Inexcusable. pic.twitter.com/rPmSiNh2S1— Hindi Crawford (@IamHarshDave) January 29, 2016
DeRozan and Kyle Lowry are top five in minutes and Lowry's turning 30 this year. I want to see Dwane Casey do a better job of staggering their minutes so that one of them is on the court at almost all times, without necessitating having BOTH on for 36+ minutes. Lowry's also dealing with a sore wrist, so I'm really hoping to see a change in this trend. Remember, they'll both be front and centre during All Star festivities as well, so there's no respite on that front. Save them for the playoffs.
Where to watch: 6:30 PM EST, Sportsnet ONE