Mar 23, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; Detroit Pistons point guard Jose Calderon (8) shoots a three point shot against the Charlotte Bobcats during the first half at Time Warner Cable Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Preview: Toronto Raptors (26-45) vs Detroit Pistons (24-48) - 3 keys to victory

Two teams circling the drain face each other tonight in the Palace of Auburn Hills. The Detroit Pistons’ starting point guard, Jose Calderon, will be ultra-motivated to lead his squad to a victory over the Toronto Raptors, whose GM threw our favourite Spaniard overboard in late January. Jose ended up in Motown in exchange for the disappointing Austin Daye and the aging Tayshaun Prince. While Jose has played well since his arrival, which is hardly a surprise, his team continues to pile up losses.

Mar 23, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; Detroit Pistons center Greg Monroe (10) holds the ball during the first half against the Charlotte Bobcats at Time Warner Cable Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit’s excellent rookie forward/centre, Andre Drummond, is listed as questionable due to ongoing back problems. On Draft Night last summer, I expected to hear this fellow’s name called when David Stern announced the Raps’ selection at #8. While I’m happy enough with Terrence Ross, I can’t help wondering if we didn’t need a big man more, particularly since the concerns about Drummond having knucklehead tendencies seem to have dissipated. Should he hit the floor with his talented mate Greg Monroe, the Raps are going to be in difficulty on the boards.

Toronto is desperate for a win following five straight defeats, and can grab one if they:

  • get a complete game from Kyle Lowry. Our starting point guard should have no trouble getting into fighting spirit for this match against his old rival Calderon. Bryan Colangelo chose Kyle over Jose, and KL needs to demonstrate his GM was right. That doesn’t mean trying to pick Jose’s pocket, as it won’t happen, but it does mean making sound passes and not driving into traffic.
  • have Amir Johnson back at full strength. If the season ended today, Amir would be an easy choice as the team’s MVP. When he’s hobbled, we struggle mightily on the boards. AJ also provides a healthy quantity of blocked shots. He left the Hawks’ game with what was diagnosed as a left leg contusion, and is listed as day-to-day.
  • play the game, and stop the ref-baiting, chirping, and stylin’! I’m looking at you, Rudy Gay and Kyle. It’s atrocious to watch Rudy walk back on defense because he’s busy complaining to the nearest zebra about a no-call on a drive to the basket. I’m the first to agree the Raps get little or no help from the refs, but somehow you have to suck it up and play. Kyle can’t control his “woe is me” comments either, and gets T-ed up all too frequently. If I were Dwane Casey, I’d warn both these guys to cool it, or expect a night on the bench.

Mar 27, 2013; Toronto, ON, Canada; Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford (15) defends against Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry (3) at the Air Canada Centre. The Hawks beat the Raptors 107-88. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Jonas Valanciunas’ confidence and productivity increase every game, it seems. I think he will be the difference-maker, and the Raps will prevail by a 96-90 count.

Brian Boake is a co-editor for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.

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