The Raptors’ loss to the Tyrese Haliburton-less Indiana Pacers on Wednesday was a tremendously disappointing start to their current four-game home stand.
Following a competitive loss against the league-best Milwaukee Bucks, which was preceded by three consecutive double-digit wins, the Raptors looked like a team on the upswing. The timing for such an upswing would’ve been perfect heading into the crucial four-game stretch in Toronto. Instead, the Raptors were thoroughly outplayed by an inferior opponent and fell to 35-38. Thanks to another Hawks loss, the Raptors are still just a game out of eighth, but their margin for error continues to shrink. If this path to the eighth seed is a “race,” the participants appear to be running it blindfolded.
Tonight the Raptors take on the 16-57 Detroit Pistons. A loss against the Pistons, who are executing an outstanding tank season, would be a truly impressive feat. But hey – it’s Dwane Casey. Let’s see if the 2022-23 Raptors have another impressive loss up their sleeves.
Where to Watch:
Sportsnet One, 7:30pm EST
Toronto – Fred VanVleet, Will Barton, O.G. Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Jakob Poeltl
Detroit – Killian Hayes, Jaden Ivey, Rodney McGruder, Marvin Bagley, James Wiseman
Toronto – Scottie Barnes (wrist – questionable), Gary Trent (elbow – questionable), Precious Achiuwa (hamstring – questionable), Joe Wieskamp (hamstring – questionable), Dalano Banton (thumb – OUT), Otto Porter (toe – out for season)
Detroit – Isaiah Livers (hip – questionable), Alec Burks (foot – OUT), Rodney McGruder (foot – OUT), Bojan Bogdanovic (achilles – OUT), Hamidou Diallo (ankle – OUT), Isaiah Stewart (shoulder – OUT), Cade Cunningham (lower leg – OUT for season)
Losing On Purpose
At full health, the Detroit Pistons are not built to be a particularly competitive team. They’re still in the early stages of a rebuilding process and are amassing talent with which to surround first-overall pick Cade Cunningham. Now factor in Cunningham’s season-ending injury, plus the Pistons’ extensive injury report, and you have a team that is simply designed to lose.
It’s not like the Pistons had the means to compete for a playoff spot this year, but they’ve taken zero chances in blowing their draft lottery odds by crafting a true losing machine. They have lost 18 of their last 20 games. Their two wins in that span came against the 19-54 San Antonio Spurs and – hey, would you look at that! – the Indiana Pacers. The Pistons are presently built to lose. It’ll take a special team to beat them at their own game.
Losing By Accident
The Toronto Raptors doubled down on their core when they traded for Jakob Poeltl. But between a few nice winning stretches, the post-deadline Raptors remain incomplete, uninspiring, and incredibly mediocre. What’s sad about a game like the Pacers loss is that the Raptors’ organization isn’t even trying to improve their draft position. They want to make the play-in. The team passed up on an opportunity to gain draft assets and nab solid lottery odds in a year with a franchise-altering first pick. But even though they’ve doubled down on their core and avoided a standings free-fall, they’re still unable to beat teams with better lottery odds like the Indiana Pacers.
Granted, the Raptors were without three (if we’re still counting Precious Achiuwa) rotation players against Indiana. Missing multiple rotation players really hurts a team with so little depth. Nick Nurse resorted to starting Will Barton, who the team had recently signed from the buyout market. A buyout guy starting is not an indication of a great roster. With Barton still cold (he missed all his three-point attempts versus Indiana), Gary Trent out, and O.G. Anunoby’s shot looking rough, the Raptors’ offense made three-pointers feel like a luxury. Injuries are no excuse. The Indiana Pacers were missing Tyrese Haliburton, without whom they are now 5-14, but that didn’t trip them up. Poeltl fixes quite a few things but the Raptors are still a flawed team, and while the odds are against them, the Raptors are still capable of a surprise loss to the Pistons. It may take some supernatural assistance, such as...
Dwane Casey’s Vendetta
Dwane Casey is 120-255 as the Detroit Pistons’ head coach. He is 9-6 against the Raptors. The Pistons swept Toronto during the championship season, and won six consecutive matchups across 2021 and 2022. Somehow the Raptors have defeated the Pistons in all three matchups this season, but only by nine combined points.
At this point, the ex-Raptors’ coach will face a steep uphill battle considering all the Pistons’ injuries, both real and tanking-related. But Casey’s vendetta is one of the most powerful supernatural forces in professional basketball, and one would be foolish to doubt it. At the very least, you’d be foolish to doubt the Pistons against the spread. Dwane Casey’s squad is built to lose, but for the sake of tradition, perhaps Casey will lead them to an upset.