Toronto is seemingly working themselves back into playoff shape after a series of games against a couple of subpar foes — dispatching the Cavaliers and Nets in back to back wins. Kyle Lowry seems to be meshing back into his groove nicely and Pascal Siakam is finding his aggressiveness return to form after a mean slump.
In addition to the team’s stars returning to form, an additional star is beginning to rise. Norman Powell is turning heads across the league with his recent torrid scoring streak, averaging 20.3 points over his last nine contests, including six starts in place of the injured Fred VanVleet. VanVleet is unlikely to return tonight versus the Pistons, giving Powell another opportunity to flash his newfound consistent and efficient scoring ability.
On the other side of the aisle, Derrick Rose is thriving in his Sixth Man role with the Pistons, posting his best overall numbers since his gig with the Knicks over four years ago. Despite coming off the bench, he’s second in scoring on the team, providing a lethal change of pace for coach Dwane Casey.
Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond’s status is currently in limbo, and there has yet to be confirmation on whether they will play or sit.
Here are your details for tonight’s matchup:
Where to Watch:
TSN, 7:00 p.m.
Toronto — Kyle Lowry, Norman Powell, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol
Detroit — Luke Kennard, Tony Snell, Bruce Brown, Markieff Morris, Thon Maker
Toronto — Fred VanVleet (ankle — doubtful), Matt Thomas (finger — out), Stanley Johnson (hip — out)
Detroit — Blake Griffin (knee — questionable), Andre Drummond (eye — questionable), Reggie Jackson (back — out), Khyri Thomas (foot — out)
Easy Pickin’s for Pascal
Without Blake Griffin or Andre Drummond (supposedly), Pascal should have an easy night. He won’t have to exert himself too much defensively — as Blake tends to give him trouble — so most of his focus can be on offense. With Detroit struggling to hang onto the ball (23rd in turnovers per game) the Raptors will have plenty of opportunities to run the ball fast — and that means plenty of Lowry to Siakam fast break buckets. It’s a stat that’s been down for Toronto for most of this month.
Taken altogether, and having scored 30+ points in each of his past two games, Siakam is in line for a third against a porous (but scrappy) Detroit defense.
Norm Has Evolved into Playoff Norm Permanently
Norm has been Super Saiyan the past three weeks. Filling in for Fred VanVleet, he’s posted 22.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.8 steals per game — well, ain’t that something. Even when coming off the bench, he seems to have found a perfect role in the offense — one where he isn’t forcing shots, or dribbling into defenders, or getting stuck with the ball late in the shot clock. That Norm appears to be gone as of late.
In his place is a player who attacks decisively, makes split second decisions and doesn’t waffle with the ball. That was my biggest criticism and gripe with old Norm — he dribbled far too much. Now, he knows what he wants to do and he goes and does it. That’s a transformation the Raptors’ offense needed this season.
Nick Nurse and Dwane Casey will be forever linked by their time in Toronto. Since their split, Casey owns a 3-1 record over his former protege, but Nurse will undoubtedly seek to balance that record out a bit this season. Incredibly, Nurse is now the more seasoned coach of the two — having brought his team to an NBA title — even though Casey is by far the longer tenured NBA head coach.
Now, I’m sure the two coaches will say the matchup is just like any other, but judging by Casey’s face after last year’s last second victory in Toronto, this definitely means something more than just another game on the schedule.