The Toronto Raptors faced the Detroit Pistons for the third time tonight at Scotiabank Arena. These two teams have developed quite the game atmosphere, with the usually lottery-bound Pistons always seeming to give the Raptors a run for their money.
Tonight gave the opportunity for the Pistons to do that again, with several of the Raptors starters and role players out with injury. All of Scottie Barnes, Gary Trent Jr., Precious Achiuwa and Dalano Banton were out for Toronto with various injuries. The Pistons young core of top drafted players had a great opportunity to take advantage.
Yet, the Raptors started strong. By the halfway mark of the first quarter, they were up 22-12 thanks to the efforts of Pascal Siakam and Will Barton — who had seven points each.
By the end of the first, the Raptors had a 38-26 lead, with Fred VanVleet leading scorers at 10 points. Siakam was close behind at nine.
Nick Nurse had to go a little deeper down the bench, with some key players out, so Malachi Flynn and Jeff Dowtin got some minutes in the second quarter, allowing VanVleet and Siakam to rest a bit.
They were able to keep VanVleet off the floor until there were only five minutes left in the half, and in that time the Raptors kept the lead above 10 — a task that is sometimes difficult when VanVleet leaves the floor.
Yet, VanVleet’s presence is welcomed, because once he joined the team on the floor they pushed that 10 point lead to a near 20 point lead in just a few minutes.
The Raptors led by exactly 20 at the end of the first half, 72-52.
They maintained that steady lead through the third quarter, with Pascal Siakam up to 32 points, six assists and three rebounds. The next highest scoring Raptor was VanVleet with 18. At the end of three the Raptors led 92-73.
Obviously being up as they were, the Raptors didn’t bring all their starters on to start the fourth quarter. A lineup of Flynn, Dowtin Jr., Boucher, Koloko and Siakam was sent out to start things off. SIakam was eventually switched off for Will Barton, and the Raptors steadily cruised to the end.
They won over the Pistons 118-97, solidifying an undefeated season for the Raptors against the Pistons for the first time in the Dwane Casey Pistons era.
Pascal Siakam led all scorers with 32 points, nine assists and five rebounds. Boucher finished with 19 points, VanVleet with 18, and Anunoby with 17.
After the game, Nick Nurse mentioned that the team did well on the defensive end, made the right plays, and he was overall happy with the game. He complimented Boucher’s effort, Dowtin Jr.’s defence and Siakam’s assertiveness in the paint. Nurse also mentioned the importance of a “boring win” for team morale late in the stretch of the season.
Boucher mentioned he wants to bring energy off the bench for this team, and be more efficient in his shots. He mentioned he could have played better, gotten in the lane more, made more of his shots, but thought he played well. He also mentioned knowing the Pistons always come ready to win these games, so they have to play hard against them.
Pascal Siakam noted his ability to be aggressive on offence helped them early on. When asked if the team approaches Pistons games differently because of their ability to win games against the Raptors, he said they just want to win. Especially down the stretch here when there are less than 10 games left and their position in the standings is in question.
The Raptors now sit at 36-38 on the season and will play the Washington Wizards at home on Sunday. The Wizards are also in the Play-In race, so a win against them would be crucial.
Catch that game Sunday at 6:00 pm ET on Sportsnet.