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Raptors roll into Detroit looking for a W: Preview, start time, and more

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The Raptors get another crack at solving the Detroit Pistons tonight with reduced rosters on both sides of the ball. Let’s prepare — and watch.

Toronto Raptors v Detroit Pistons Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

Well it happened, we totally missed the Raptors vs. Pistons preview this morning, in effect becoming perhaps as discombobulated and compressed as the Raptors themselves. Fresh off a loss last night to the Portland Trail Blazers — recapped here and here — the Raptors are now in Detroit gearing up for a game tonight at 8pm.

What’s left to add? The Raptors, on paper, are better than the Pistons, except they’ve already lost to them twice this season. The first was a blowout defeat, the second was a closer affair that still somehow got away from Toronto — even with 43 points from the since-departed Norman Powell. In both contests, there have been some similarities: Mason Plumlee of the Pistons has been particularly difficult to control, and Detroit has gotten timely contributions from Jerami Grant, who is listed as probable tonight. We’ll try to ignore Dennis Smith’s triple-double in that first meeting (surely it was a fluke, and besides he’s out tonight), and rookie Saddiq Bey’s 28-12 line against Toronto from just two weeks ago.

What remains to be seen for the Raptors is what they’ll try tonight. Aron Baynes got the start for Toronto last night, but was mostly a disaster. The team got some production from Chris Boucher, but that may not be enough. And it bears mentioning that Paul Watson, DeAndre’ Bembry, and Patrick McCaw are all out tonight. We’ll update the status of one, Kyle Lowry, once it’s out there.

Here are tonight’s Raptors @ Pistons details — with some things to watch from Satbir Singh below. Now, let’s prepare and, yes, eventually watch too.

Where to Watch

Sportsnet at 8pm

Lineups:

Toronto — Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Aron Baynes

Detroit — Cory Joseph, Hamidou Diallo, Saddiq Bey, Jerami Grant, Mason Plumlee

Injuries:

Toronto — Kyle Lowry (questionable - foot), DeAndre’ Bembry (out - health and safety protocols), Paul Watson (out - health and safety protocols), Jalen Harris (out - hip pointer), Patrick McCaw (out - knee)

Detroit — Jerami Grant (probable - quad), Sekou Doumbouya (questionable - migraine), Rodney McGruder (doubtful - elbow sprain), Jahlil Okafor (out - knee), Dennis Smith Jr. (out - back), Killian Hayes (out - hip strain)

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Team Efficiency

When the Raptors last played the Pistons — less than two weeks ago — their efficiency on offense was a major issue. At the time, it was Norman Powell who shot a beyond solid 14-for-18. On top of that, Chris Boucher put down a strong 10-for-16 night. As mentioned, though, the Raptors still lost.

That’s because Lowry, VanVleet and Siakam were a combined 7-for-37 (19 percent) and 1-for-17 from three. (And it didn’t help that OG Anunoby was still out for this game.) Now, it’s very rare for Toronto’s trio of Lowry, VanVleet and Siakam to all struggle in the same game offensively. We should expect they are much better tonight. In a season when depth and bench scoring is an issue, the Raptors will need those three to step up tonight during this tough month of March.

Stopping the Forwards

Along with the above-noted struggles, the Raptors struggled to keep key forwards Saddiq Bey and Jerami Grant in check — and that could even go for Josh Jackson as well, which is an obvious concern.

As noted, Bey had 28 points and 12 rebounds in that March 17 game, while Grant scored 23 and Jackson added 16. At least the Raptors don’t have to worry about Delon Wright this time, as he’s since been shipped to Sacramento. Of course, now we can cue up the Cory Joseph Revenge Game instead. It’s been that kind of year.

The Raptors will have to do a better overall job defensively, but it’ll be important to stop Detroit’s forwards. Aunuoby’s presence should help with that, but this also falls on Siakam to be a bit more active defensively. It’s worth noting that the last time this team played the Pistons, it was Siakam’s first game back from a long break due to the league’s health and safety protocols.

Too Close for Comfort

The Raptors could truly use a game that isn’t close. While losing 13 of their last 15 games, it was the last two that have stung just a bit more. The Raptors lost to the Suns by four and then to the Blazers by five. Struggling to win games is already hard enough, add close losses and it becomes so much more deflating.

While it can’t be said that the Pistons are an easy matchup, since the Raptors did lose to them by four too, there has to be a game at some point this team can at least say they won with comfort. While there was the 24-point win over the Nuggets five days ago, it also feels like that victory came ages ago.

No one wants to lose to the worst team in the Eastern Conference twice — let alone three times — so the Raptors truly need this one tonight. It’s time to stick it to the Pistons after feeling embarrassment the last time around.