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Raptors look for first win this season vs Pistons: Preview, game thread, and more

As they look to get back on track post-All-Star break, can the Raptors take care of business against Dwane Casey’s Pistons?

Photo by Mark Blinch/NBAE via Getty Images

Following a couple odd blowout losses to the Charlotte Hornets and Atlanta Hawks, the Toronto Raptors swept an important back-to-back against the Brooklyn Nets, who were led by a big three of Seth Curry, LaMarcus Aldridge, and James Johnson. But perhaps the highlight of the week was the return of a full capacity crowd at Scotiabank Arena, who were there not only to cheer on the Raptors as they pulled out a 109-108 victory down the stretch, but also to blow off some steam and boo Goran Dragic every time he touched the ball. Every. Damn. Time. Nature is healing.

Now the Raptors are looking to get back on track and return to their eight-game winning streak form. On a related note, they’d also love a return to full health. Can either of these things really happen tonight against the Detroit Pistons? I think not. But at the very least the Raptors have a chance to take care of business and protect their spot in the standings. If there’s any team that would love to spoil the Raptors’ good vibes, though, it’s the Pistons – who, for a bottom-dwelling team, have some talent! The great rivalry continues.

Here are tonight’s details.

Where to Watch:

TSN1/3/4, 7:30 PM EST

Lineups:

Toronto – Malachi Flynn, Gary Trent Jr., Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, Khem Birch

Detroit – Cory Joseph, Cade Cunningham, Saddiq Bey, Jerami Grant, Isaiah Stewart

Injuries:

Toronto – Fred VanVleet (knee – questionable), OG Anunoby (finger – questionable), D.J. Wilson (knee – OUT)

Detroit – Hamidou Diallo (ankle – probable), Marvin Bagley (ankle – doubtful)

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Great Scottie!

Scottie Barnes is a winning basketball player, and he’s made that abundantly clear since the All-Star break. This was obviously true before the break as well, but over the last four games he’s averaging 20 points on 72% shooting, as well as 8.8 rebounds and 2 steals per game. He scored a career-high 28 points against Charlotte, then matched that in a blowout win vs Brooklyn. Those are some numbers right there!

The team’s most recent Brooklyn game featured one of Barnes’ most impressive stretches as a pro – that it came in front of a real home crowd was a ton of fun. Down VanVleet and Anunoby, and with Siakam eventually fouling out, Barnes helped will the Raptors to victory with a series of winning plays, including most notably the go-ahead fall-away jumper and a massive block against Seth Curry. He can majorly impact a game in so many different ways – even when the coach isn’t running any plays for him! Tonight poses a fun matchup for him as he faces fellow rookie, Cade Cunningham.

Dwane Brings the Pain

We all know the Dwane Casey Raptors story. Needless to say, he probably wasn’t a huge fan of how – or, perhaps, when – his tenure as the Raptors coach ended. Since being hired by the Pistons, Dwane Casey is 8-3 against the Raptors, ironically approaching LeBronto territory. The Pistons’ record is much worse against the rest of the NBA. “He certainly always has them ready to play when he comes in here,” said Nick Nurse following a loss to the Pistons earlier this season.

His players celebrate wins against the Raptors with postseason vigour. And you know what? I respect the hell out of it. The Pistons have won five straight against the Raptors, and even swept them during the championship season. It takes a good coach to so consistently beat a more talented team. DraftKings lists the Raptors as -8.5 point favourites, which either means their oddsmakers haven’t been paying attention, or they’re predicting the curse will be broken. Both options are intriguing!

Many Malachi Minutes?

Raptors fans longing for more Malachi Flynn minutes have finally been satiated. Eric Koreen of The Athletic points out that Flynn played 43 minutes vs the Nets on Tuesday; he played 47 minutes the entire month of January. Perhaps an earlier increase in Flynn’s playing time could’ve curbed Fred VanVleet’s knee soreness, but in this timeline, VanVleet’s absence has provided Flynn with the opportunity to escape Nick Nurse’s dreaded doghouse.

Flynn has rewarded Nurse’s decision to start him with back-to-back performances of 18 points, 4 boards, and 5 assists on 7-for-11 shooting, followed by 15 points, 6 rebounds, and 8 assists on 6-for-11 shooting. He’s looked confident and controlled, giving up just one turnover in 106 minutes since the break, and even wowed the Scotiabank Arena crowd with a nasty hesitation move on LaMarcus Aldridge. Even if VanVleet returns, it would be nice to see Malachi in a steadier rotation role, and with a longer leash.

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