The Raptors handled yet another sub-.500 team last night, and did it in mostly convincing fashion! They let the Pistons close a 16-point lead to six late in the third, but quickly put things away in the fourth.
Let’s get right into the thoughts:
Welcome to the Dunk Parade
I’m really glad to see back-to-back solid performances from Norman Powell. His jump shot was off, unfortunately (0-for-4 from downtown), but he upheld a long Toronto tradition — started when James Johnson cocked that joint back and banged it on ‘em — of Raptors dunking all over the Pistons.
Last night Norm dunked on Andre Drummond...
ANGRY NORM— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) February 1, 2020
And Drummond again...
Cocked that joint back & banged on 'em pic.twitter.com/jPftrReJBD— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) February 1, 2020
Powell also had seven rebounds and three steals, so even though the jumper wasn’t falling, he found a way to contribute. That’s how you shed the “inconsistent” label.
Getting the Legs Back
Pascal Siakam had a big first quarter last night — 13 points on six shots — as no one on the Pistons seemed particularly interested in guarding him. He had a quiet middle portion of the game — four points on four shots — but spent about half of each of the second and third quarters on the bench.
That definitely seems the right approach to keep his legs fresh, as he came back strong in the fourth and helped Toronto slam the door, with another 13 points on eight shots.
He still played 35 minutes, and you’d like that to maybe be 33 against a bad team like Detroit, but I like seeing Siakam used as a tone-setter early and finisher late.
Ugh, That Four-Guard Lineup
The Raptors ran with a Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell, Terence Davis, Patrick McCaw and Serge Ibaka lineup late in the third last night. Four guards on the floor? Against a fairly big Pistons team? And none of them is Kyle Lowry? (And one of them is Patrick McCaw?!)
As I wrote in the recap, this seemed like a bit of a Nick Nurse flex — hey Dwane, we can beat your lazy big men even with our little guys, and not even our best little guy— but, it didn’t really work. The offense looked completely disjointed, which isn’t surprising; that group had played less than a minute together before last night.
Ultimately, thanks to VanVleet’s late third-quarter three, they only ended up a -2 on the night. But I hope we don’t see that group again.
Big Energy Up Front
Serge Ibaka had another solid night starting in place of Marc Gasol. I was a bit worried that Andre Drummond might have Serge’s number and carry the Pistons through this one, but Ibaka was the superior player from the jump — more involved and engaged on both ends.
And how about Chris Boucher? I love the way he comes in to the games and just immediately brings it. Boucher could have hung his head after being benched again when Ibaka and Gasol got healthy, but he brings that same energy every time.
It was quite a contrast to Drummond, who had the most ineffective and forgettable 20-20 game I’ve ever seen. I mean did you notice Drummond out there at all, other than say, “hey, where’s Andre Drummond?” “Oh, there he is, wandering around 15 feet from the hoop like he’s wondering where he left his keys.”
Feel for Dwane
Dwane Casey seems like such a great human being, that I can’t help but feel bad for him, stuck coaching this joyless Pistons team. Not that he was forced into it at gunpoint or anything, but I’m sure he at least thought he’d be coaching a superstar in Blake Griffin.
But Griffin got old, hurt and overpriced in the blink of an eye, and the team has no real avenue to recover. And they all seem pretty miserable, which I suppose isn’t unexpected on a 17-win team in January.
I just feel bad for Dwane. He deserves better.
The Raptors will aim to tie their franchise record for consecutive wins on Sunday, with their 11th in a row. How about that?