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Raptors begin two-game road trip to finish season, take on Pistons: Preview, start time, and more

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As the playoffs approach, the Raptors look to build confidence against the mostly lifeless Pistons.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Detroit Pistons Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

In the penultimate game of the season, the Raptors have a chance to keep their rhythm going following the wire-to-wire win against the Magic last night.

The Pistons have been good since Reggie Jackson returned from injury, going 7-3 and posting the league’s fourth best defensive mark. They’ve had contributions across the board: draft pick Henry Ellenson is making an impression with his versatile game and Anthony Tolliver has continued his strong season. The Pistons will clean the glass and take care of the ball. The Raptors must have a good effort to keep the chance for 60 wins alive.

It’s game 81 which means scoreboard watch will be in full effect. The Raptors’ game has no playoff implications but both the Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat play tonight, impacting who claims the eighth seed. As for the Pistons, well, they’ve been out of the playoff picture now for weeks.

Let’s just keep the good vibes going.

Here are your details for tonight’s game.

Where to Watch

Sportsnet One, 7 p.m. EST

Lineups:

Toronto – Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, OG Anunoby, Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas

Pistons – Reggie Jackson, Luke Kennard, Stanley Johnson, Anthony Tolliver, Andre Drummond

Injuries:

Toronto – Lucas Nogueira (hamstring - day-to-day), Fred VanVleet (back - day-to-day)

Detroit – Blake Griffin (bone bruise - questionable), Reggie Bullock (knee - out)

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Re-Establishing Rotations

Dwane Casey doesn’t like to play with fire. Probably true in a number of ways but in a figurative sense, Casey will only muck up a game as a last-resort. If the game is tight, he will scratch to find the right five-man unit. Against Boston last week Casey went to a lineup with Bebe and four shooters. Similarly, Casey hasn’t flinched going to Norman Powell for physical, rebounding, and transition-streaking short stints. If a game is in doubt, anything goes. Though in a perfect world, Casey’s substitution patterns and game plan would be set before the game. That’s how he lives, and what he banks on. With injuries to Lucas Nogueira and Fred VanVleet last night, tonight’s game marks a good opportunity to re-establish the rotation.

State of the Pistons

In the past three seasons, the Pistons have had numerous injury problems and a poor talent base. It’s an unfortunate combination. Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond were the pillars of the franchise, but Jackson could never stay on the floor. They made a step to address the talent pool, acquiring Blake Griffin at the trade deadline. They have been better since then, going 16-15. Griffin and Drummond have coexisted nicely (although Griffin is currently injured) and Jackson has provided offensive stability.

Similar to last season when the Pelican’s acquired Demarcus Cousins at the trade deadline this new Pistons’ team needs to prove themselves. Does the Jackson-Griffin-Drummond trio represent a winning core? What will Luke Kennard and Stanley Johnson turn into? This summer is critical for the franchise. Stan Van Gundy’s front office job is in question, and as Zach Lowe mentioned, they might consider trading Drummond to recenter around Griffin. Questions aplenty.

Prioritize Swagger

It’s Game 81. You can see the end. After the Houston Rockets’ game a month ago, fans’ playoff dread washed away and excitement surrounding the team reached nuclear. Since then, the team has settled down, losing their defensive identity in stretches and only recently coming back into their own. The playoff fear still lingers in some portions of the fanbase. The two games verus Lebron James served as a reality check that the east will not be a cakewalk. Although that perception may work out fine for the Raptors as they always performed better with barriers to success. The underdog spirit. So as we enter the playoffs, the Raptors’ top priority should be getting that swagger back, knowing they’ll have to outwork other teams for success.