IT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT SPORTS EVENT OF THE DAY!
Okay, that joke got old very fast — BUT the Raptors did manage to pull out their second win of the season against the Detroit Pistons. I’ll go through it quickly, so you can get back to Rihanna watching and chicken wing eating.
It was an interesting lineup to start, with OG Anunoby and Gary Trent Jr. both out with injury, and Nick Nurse missing the game due to personal reasons. Adrian Griffin opted to start Fred VanVleet, Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, Precious Achiuwa, and Jakob Poeltl.
The Raptors got off to an energetic start, but their early game push was mostly thanks to Fred VanVleet, who started off his game by scoring 3-3 from three. Adjusting to seeing the Raptors with a real centre has been fun, and Jakob Poeltl was active early on, using his size more on the defensive end to help the Raptors.
Yet, despite leading by 12 at one point, the Raptors only led by two at the end of the first quarter. It was a close game for the entirety, with the Raptors pulling away once or twice. Yet, the Pistons always came back. With Adrian Griffin coaching, we got to see a different cycle of rotation from the start. Thad Young entered the game early, as well as Malachi Flynn and Dalano Banton.
On Detroit’s side, it was Burks who came off the bench and made an immediate impact. By the middle of the second quarter he led the Pistons with 12 points. Diallo helped with 10 of his own points, the two of them out scoring the starters for most of the first half.
Raptors were up 53-52 at the half.
On the Raptors’ side, it was Fred VanVleet who stood out most in the first half. He scored 20 of the Raptors 53 points at the half. The next scorer behind him was Scottie Barnes with 12 points.
Despite the close score, the Raptors had a great first half. The defence looked a little better and the team was able to play a few players out of the regular rotation. This helped the starters rest a little more. The only time it did not benefit them was when Precious Achiuwa and Jakob Poeltl both sat and the Pistons went on a run.
Pistons with Poeltl on the court in the 1st half: 26 points on 9-23 FG in 16 minutes.— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) February 12, 2023
Pistons with Poeltl off the court in the 1st half: 26 points on 9-15 FG in 8 minutes.
Centers are important, as it turns out.
The second half started with Pascal Siakam being a little more active, allowing the Raptors to expand their lead just a little. At the end of three quarters he had 17 points, four assists and three rebounds.
Toronto was able to take better advantage of offensive opportunities in the third quarter, with VanVleet raising his point total to 29. After having a quiet first half, Siakam looked more like himself in the second half, getting back to his technical ball handling and helping the Raptors make that push later in the game in order to win.
Watching Pascal Siakam play basketball is really something else. It was one of those days, as I watched him operate with precision despite being doubled by the opposing team, that I thought about HOW COOL it is that he is a Raptor. Anyway, he’s great.
Raptors led 84-77 after three quarters.
The fourth quarter kicked off with a GORGEOUS behind the back assist from Pascal to Boucher. Now, he did not mean to make this move... but it looked cool, so we’ll take it. Pascal Siakam quickly racked up the points, and thanks to him, VanVleet, and Scottie Barnes the team was able to maintain their 10+ point lead through most of the fourth... I said most, not all.
The Pistons make a comeback. Are we shocked? No.
Jakob Poeltl unfortunately fouled out with two and a half minutes to go, leaving the Raptors vulnerable to a late game push but Detroit. He mentioned post game that he is not worried about the high foul count in his two games since returning to Toronto, due to the physical nature of Toronto’s defensive schemes. He was confident that with time, he will adjust.
The Pistons made an effort to capitalize on the lack of size in the paint, coming within four points of the Raptors down the stretch. It was Precious Achiuwa who scored one of two free throws, to bring it to a two possession game.
Thankfully he did, because Pistons rookie Jaden Ivey sunk a buzzer three — but it was not enough. Raptors win by one, 119-118.
Fred VanVleet ends the game with 35 points on 12-26 shots from the field, six three pointers, eight assists, and three rebounds. Pascal Siakam ends with 28 points on 10-19 from the field, six assists and four rebounds. Scottie Barnes also had a great night with 20 points on 5-6 shots from the field, 3-4 three point shots, two assists and four rebounds.
The score itself isn’t a great indication of this game — it wasn’t BAD. Sure, do the Raptors need to avoid late game close call situations like this? Yes. Should the bench be contributing more? For sure. Could we spend all day analyzing this? It’s basically all anyone does these days!
Yet, they won, a win is a win, and if you’ve made it this far instead of watching the SuperBowl, I’d be shocked. So, enjoy the Rihanna concert and we’ll run it back on Tuesday when the Raptors play the Orlando Magic at home.