The Toronto Raptors could perhaps have been forgiven had they mailed in their match against the Detroit Pistons. They had just completed a nasty road trip with losses in the visitor-beware arenas of Miami and Indiana. The Raps let the Pistons hang around in a lacklustre first half, then started to successfully take the ball to the hoop after intermission, and won easily.
The only Piston who impressed me was their quick rookie guard, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. In fact, I left the Air Canada Centre thinking that was the poorest effort by an opposing team since Utah’s visit early in the season. What is with Andre Drummond? Doesn’t he read scouting reports about how Jonas Valanciunas likes to start a possession by offering a ball fake? Drummond bit on a fake not once but twice, leading to easy crams by JV. Charlie Villenueva tossed up some flat-trajectory 3-balls, and got upset when they didn’t fall. It’s kind of late in his career to be learning proper jump shot technique. An aside to coach Maurice Cheeks: didn’t your advance scouts tell you that leaving Terrence Ross unguarded beyond the arc is a bad idea? TR was 5 of 10 from distance. Brandon Jennings hasn’t changed at all since his arrival in the Motor City from Milwaukee. He’s their version of Rudy Gay, a high-volume shooter who makes just enough to be dangerous. He needed 19 shots to make 22 points. Oh yeah…19 of 35 from the charity stripe? C’mon Detroit, this is the NBA. I now understand why this loss was the Pistons’ sixth straight.
The Raps got the kind of contributions from the entire lineup which was sorely lacking against Indiana. All the starters scored in double figures. JV and Amir Johnson each pulled down 11 rebounds. Detroit’s big men, Drummond and Greg Monroe, blocked 2 Raps’ shots, while our starting bigs swatted 6. DeMar DeRozan left his jump shot on the plane, but took to driving to the bucket instead, earning 16 free throws and making 13. Kyle Lowry, despite missing a couple of layups, hit 4 of 6 from distance, and made all 9 free throws, to finish with a team-high 21 points. He added 9 assists, and would have had several more but for the inability of his mates to convert some fine passes.
While I’m glad the Raps celebrated their return with a healthy victory, outscoring the sluggish Pistons 62-37 in the second half, I hope they don’t get complacent. Get some rest guys, you’ve earned it, and you’ll need it. The suddenly hot Brooklyn Nets are in town Saturday night.