The Toronto Raptors will end their three-game homestand against the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night. Tonight’s game will run high on emotions as former Raptors head coach Dwane Casey will make his return to the city and organization that he called home for the past seven seasons.
As you’ll recall, Casey’s statement when he left Toronto:
The longest-tenured coach in Raptors’ history, Casey became the franchise’s eighth head coach in 2011 and began the rebuilding phase immediately. His first move as head coach may never be forgotten: he went out and got the organization to place a 1,300-lb boulder outside the team’s dressing room. On that day, the team’s mantra of “pound the rock” was established and it was used as a motivational tool to keep players focused and to keep grinding.
The mantra and boulder carried through Casey’s coaching tenure — but at least one was removed during this past off-season after he was fired back in May.
Spotted in the bowels of the building formerly known as the Air Canada Centre: the Dwane Casey rock, no longer being pounded. pic.twitter.com/tKjEeNHM65— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) October 5, 2018
Inarguably the greatest Raptors coach in the team’s history, Casey is the winningest head coach in the team’s history with a record of 320-238. More importantly, he improved the team’s record each year from 2011 to 2016, led the team to the playoffs for five consecutive seasons, clinched the first 50-win season in 2016 (and most wins in a season with 59 in 2017-18), advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history, and capped it off by winning the NBA’s Coach of the Year in 2018. None of that will be forgotten — sadly, neither will some of the poor Raptors playoff performances throughout his tenure.
Last season’s sweep by the Cavaliers (the second in a row) was a bitter ending to the most successful season in team history, which makes it all the more emotional for Casey and the fans tonight. (Especially when the team will most likely play a tribute video after the first timeout.)
Through 12 games, Casey’s Pistons are 6-6 and have got off to an okay start. They have had games in which they have lost leads late, as well as a few bad OT losses to the Brooklyn Nets (lost to a go-ahead bucket by Spencer Dinwiddie) and Miami Heat (who were without Hassan Whiteside).
The Raptors, on the other hand, are 12-2 on the season and are coming off a tough 126-110 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, snapping their six-game win streak. The Raptors were bullied in the paint as the Pelicans scored 72 points and were roughed up on the defensive end of the floor by Jrue Holiday, Anthony Davis, E’Twuan Moore and co., and simply couldn’t get into an offensive rhythm in the second-half of the game.
Tonight they look to get back to their winning ways and hope to hand Dwane Casey an L in his first game back to Toronto.
Let’s get to the game details and what to watch for.
Where to Watch:
Sportsnet One, 7:30 p.m. ET
Toronto - Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam, Jonas Valanciunas
Detroit: Reggie Jackson, Reggie Bullock, Glenn Robinson III, Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond
Toronto – Norman Powell (OUT – Left shoulder subluxation), C.J. Miles (OUT – Right adductor strain)
Detroit - Luke Kennard (OUT – Right shoulder sprain)
Playing it Old School
Through 14 games, Toronto hasn’t played that many games against teams with two traditional bigs at the power forward and centre positions. The Pistons are definitely that kind of team, featuring the dominant big-duo in Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond.
That said, it may not be too big of a sweat because Jonas Valanciunas has gotten the better of Drummond in previous match-ups. It’s likely the Raptors opt to play him at centre and have Serge Ibaka come off the bench, but it will be interesting to see if both JV and Ibaka will play at the same time. Note: the two haven’t played together at the same time this season but may have to to match the Pistons’ size.
but ... drummond already has IG https://t.co/cGe4NATITJ— William Lou (@william_lou) November 10, 2018
Defend the Paint
On Monday night, the Pelicans absolutely feasted in the paint against the Raptors, and the Pistons are likely no different. A healthy bulk of their points come from inside the paint as they are currently averaging 47.4 points per game from there. Fortunately for Toronto, the Pistons are not a good three-point shooting team as they rank 20th in three-pointers made with 132 and are second-last in the league in three-point percentage as they shoot 31.4 percent per game. That makes the game plan clear.
With that in mind, and the fact that the Raptors have solid guard and wing defenders in Lowry, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, OG Anunoby, and Delon Wright, the Pistons will likely avoid shooting it from outside but instead go inside and attack Pascal Siakam and/or JV and Ibaka with Griffin and Drummond looming inside. We may even see Leonard on Griffin if neither of Siakam, Ibaka or JV can contain him.
Come Out and Finish Strong
As mentioned before, this is the last game of a three-game homestand, so it will be key for the Raptors to come out strong and blow the game open early to give the starters rest. After tonight’s game, Toronto will be heading on their second four-game road-trip of the season, this time against all Eastern Conference foes: the Celtics, Bulls, Magic, and Hawks.
The tricky part of this road-trip is that they are two separate sets of back-to-backs, so it will be likely Kawhi only plays two games out of this four game trip. Expect Leonard to play against the Celtics and rest against the Bulls and to play against the Magic and rest against the Hawks, but that trip can go either way.
All this being said, the Raptors certainly don’t want to head out on the road having just lost two games in a row.