Are the playoffs here yet? No? Hmmm, can I interest you in a late-season game with the Detroit Pistons? No? Too bad, because I’m going to write about it anyway.
The Raptors are playing in the second half of a back-to-back set after suffering an ugly 108-90 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday which saw the Dinos blow a 19-point first half lead. Indy outscored Toronto 68-39 in the second half in what was one of the Raptors’ worst late efforts in recent memory.
It’s easy to get worked up over the poor performance, but considering Dwane Casey’s club had won eight of nine heading into the contest there’s no reason to push the panic button.
The Pistons, who currently occupy the 11th-seed in the Eastern Conference, are 2 1/2 games back of the Pacers for the eighth and final playoff spot, so to say tonight’s matchup is a must-win for them is an understatement.
“Right now, you continue to fight,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy told reporters on Monday. “We know the deal. We pretty much have to go undefeated, and we need a couple of teams to lose three more games. It’s not easy, but nothing’s impossible in this league.”
Here are three things to watch out for in the tilt:
Bounce-back Game for Ibaka
Off nights happen to every player in the NBA, and Serge Ibaka certainly had one of them yesterday. The 27-year-old missed all six of his 3-point attempts, finishing with eight points on 3-of-13 shooting. Combined with Patrick Patterson, the Raptors got a 4-of-19 night from their power forwards. They weren’t alone, though, as the Raps as a whole were brutal from beyond the arc, going 5-for-23 from downtown.
Ibaka has a prime chance to rebound from the off game with a decent matchup with Pistons power forward Jon Leuer in store. Expect to see a different Ibaka vs. the Pistons.
Everyone knows homecourt advantage is huge in this league, but the Pistons have taken it to another level in the 2016-17 campaign. Detroit is a very solid 24-15 in the friendly confines of the Palace of Auburn Hills but just 11-27 away from Michigan.
The good news for the Raptors is they won’t have very far to travel after playing in Indianapolis, and Detroit is only a stone’s throw away from Ontario. Toronto has fared well in the Motor City over the last few years, claiming three of the last four meetings between the clubs in Detroit.
Beware of the Rested Pistons
The Pistons have had plenty of time time to rest up, as they haven’t played since suffering a three-point overtime loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday. Detroit owns the second-best record in the Association when playing on two or more days rest (9-3), so the Raps will be on the opposite end of the spectrum since they’ll be playing their third game in four days.
Toronto is in the middle of the pack when it comes to playing in the second half of back-to-backs at 8-9. The last time they were in this spot was coincidentally also in Detroit on March 17, where the Raptors won 87-75.
Where to watch: TSN 4/5 at 7:30 p.m. EST