The Toronto Raptors suffered a bitter defeat in Brooklyn on Monday night, and now must dust themselves off and start a new winning streak. The underachieving (and that’s being kind) Detroit Pistons visit the Air Canada Centre, and we hope that’s a tonic for our team.
On a Wall of Shame of the NBA’s most disappointing teams this season, the Pistons rank near the top, along with other bellyflop squads like the Knicks, Bucks & Lakers. While the reasons why those teams are failing are easy to document, Detroit’s struggles are more opaque. The players were certainly not tuning into coach Maurice Cheeks, so he was fired a month ago after starting 21-29. The bleeding hasn’t stopped under interim coach John Loyer. There are rumblings that beloved General Manager Joe Dumars will finally walk the plank. Welcome to Team Turmoil.
A front line of veteran gunner Josh Smith, solid power forward Greg Monroe and emerging centre Andre Drummond sounds impressive, but the Pistons are being badly outscored, despite solid rebounding numbers. Certainly the guards have to “own” a lot of that. A team which starts Brandon Jennings, who Kyle Lowry will blow by, and Kyle Singler (he’d be fourth on the Raps’ depth chart, behind Landry Fields) isn’t destined for a championship. Their assists totals aren’t pretty either. If I were their coach, I’d park Singler on the bench, and start rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, whose speed and poise impresses me.
Who else are they going to try? Charlie Villeneuva? His last-gasp attempt to stay in the NBA is by transforming himself into a “stretch 4″, but he’s hit 9 3-balls for the season. Thanks for showing up. Their bench is poor, although guards Rodney Stuckey and Will Bynum can hustle and score.
The Raps need this win, and will get it if they:
- take the time on offense to set up open looks for 3s. The Pistons have great difficulty defending the long ball, having given up a ridiculous 159 more than they have scored. Jennings is small and uninterested, Singler is slow. How are they going to close out on shooters?
- play inside-out. Get the ball to Jonas Valanciunas, and let him find the open man. He’s welcome to take on their big men, as he’ll lose some battles but get them in foul trouble.
- blow up their second unit. Greivis Vasquez, Tyler Hansbrough, John Salmons – all of them should combine for a huge plus by game’s end (I’ll pick plus-28).
The Pistons are used to losing, and are playing out the string. The Raps have every reason to play hard for 48 minutes. An Atlantic Division title awaits. Toronto wins 109-98.