2018-19 has been quite the season for the Raptors and revenge games and homecomings! We’ve completed the DeMar DeRozan-Jakob Poeltl San Antonio revenge series, and today, we close out the Dwane Casey revenge tour as the Raptors travel to Detroit to take on Casey and his Pistons.
As you are no doubt aware, the Raptors are 0-2 against their former head coach, and Casey has been a little cheeky in his comments towards the organization that employed him for seven years, saying after the last Pistons win that Detroit has a championship history and pride that Toronto has never had. Which is, in many ways, in indictment of his own damn self, since he coached the best teams in franchise history... but I digress!
The good news is that the on-court product has been just as dramatic as the off court commentary, with the Pistons winning the first matchup at the buzzer in Toronto, and the second going to OT following an game-tying OG Anunoby tip-in, and Marc Gasol missing the potential game winner, set up by a wonderful SLOB play from Nick Nurse.
What drama will today’s game ring? Here’s what you need to know to find out:
Where to Watch
TSN, 4 PM ET
Toronto - Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol
Detroit - Reggie Jackson, Wayne Ellington, Bruce Brown, Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond
Toronto - Fred VanVleet (Questionable - thumb); Kyle Lowry (Questionable - ankle); Danny Green (Questionable - ankle); Serge Ibaka (Not with team - suspended)
Detroit - none
Kyle Lowry Over Everything, Especially Detroit
Kyle Lowry missed the Raptors’ last game thanks to a sprained ankle suffered against Cleveland, but if I know Kyle Lowry (which I don’t, and he’s somewhat inscrutable, but for the sake of this preview, let’s assume I do) nothing short of an amputated foot would keep him from playing in this one. Lowry and Dwane Casey had an on-again, off-again relationship over the years, and while it ended with a ton of mutual respect between them — they each brought each other their greatest successes — Lowry is super-competitive and I would imagine that inside, it’s burning him up that Casey has gotten the better of the Raptors so far this season.
Last time these two teams played, Lowry went pretty much full KLOE, notching a season-high 35 points along with seven boards and five assists as the Raptors lost in OT. I think we’ll see a similar performance today.
Can the Raptors Go Big?
Serge Ibaka will miss his second straight game thanks to his suspension for making Marquese Chriss’ life flash before his eyes, and that means the Raptors will be undersized against the powerful Detroit frontcourt of Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond. Pascal Siakam continues to improve in leaps and bounds, but he still doesn’t have the muscle mass to stop Griffin, who scored 27 and hauled in seven boards the last time these two teams met, routinely taking Siakam into the paint and powering his way to the hoop.
The Raptors do have Eric Moreland on board, who played 67 games with Detroit last year, and who does possibly have the strength to deal with Griffin — but perhaps not the quickness.
Either way Marc Gasol is going to have his hands full with Drummond, who must have been thrilled to see his nemesis Jonas Valanciunas shipped off to Memphis! Gasol will have to dig into his bag of veteran tricks to keep Drummond off the glass; the Pistons big man had 17 boards the last time these two teams played.
Setting the Postseason Stage
This is the final meeting of the season between the two teams... unless it isn’t. Will these teams meet in the first round of the playoffs? Though Detroit is currently in sixth place, they’re a mere .001% ahead of Brooklyn, in seventh (Brooklyn has played two more games). Although I don’t exactly fear Detroit as a playoff opponent, and I certainly don’t fear Dwane Casey as an opposing playoff coach, it would make me a little... uneasy going into a first round series against a team that swept the Raptors in the regular season. I feel like the Raptors’ uneven first-round play in 2016 and 2017 took about five years off of my life, so I need all the angst-free playoff rounds I can get, you know?
That’s why I’m looking for a big KLOE performance and a Raptors win today. For me, for my heart and my health. Do it for me, boys.