Toronto Raptors: Three takeaways from tough loss to Detroit Pistons

Toronto Raptors - Kawhi Leonard (Photo by Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Kawhi Leonard (Photo by Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors were once again beaten by the Detroit Pistons, completing the season sweep for Dwane Casey against his former team. What did we learn from the game?

The Toronto Raptors returned to the scene of a recent heartbreaking overtime loss: Detroit. Unlike the last game, the Raptors were without Kyle Lowry, who was missing his second consecutive game. The bright side though, Fred VanVleet made his long-awaited return to the team, following a six-week lay-off.

Hoping for some revenge over former coach Dwane Casey, the Raptors once again had Kawhi Leonard in the starting line-up. Although, revenge would not be on the menu, as the Detroit Pistons and Casey completed the season sweep of his former team, winning all three games against the Raptors this season.

The Raptors started cold like a beer on St Patricks Day, shooting 1-8 in the opening exchanges and falling behind by double-digits. The introduction of VanVleet seemed to spark life into the Raptors, and they cut the Pistons lead down to four in the first quarter, though Blake Griffin was off to a bright start too.

The Pistons stretched their lead to as much as 11 points in the second quarter, but the three-point shooting of Kawhi Leonard kept the Raptors in check as they cut down to the lead to three points. The lack of defensive consistency hurt the Raptors too, with easy buckets being given up between strong defensive stands.

The second half started with the news that Fred VanVleet would start ahead of Jeremy Lin, who once again struggled. Kawhi Leonard wasn’t struggling by any means, producing a great block against Bruce Brown, who finished with two points in the game.

The Raptors were dominant in the third quarter, shooting 7-12 from three in the quarter and pulled ahead by eight points heading into the fourth. Some lovely exchanges between VanVleet, Leonard and Danny Green saw the Raptors play their best basketball of the game. Even the bench unit, led by Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby held on for an extended period.

It began to fall apart in the fourth quarter though, as the Pistons outscored the Raptors 32-23 and brought the game level late on in the game. A late-game steal from Andre Drummond and finish from Wayne Ellington put the Raptors on the brink of defeat and Dwane Casey’s team were able to hold on for the victory.

In a way, it’s nice to see Casey get one up over his former team, but the Raptors are now 5-5 in their last 10 games. They’re also beginning to close in a full health team for the first time in a long time.

Here are my three takeaways from the game.

1. Kawhi Leonard does it from three, again

Once again, Kawhi Leonard was one of the saving graces for the Toronto Raptors. Leonard had his thirteenth double-double of the season and his twenty-first game with more than 30 points, with a 33 points, 10 rebounds and two assists stat line in Detroit.

Leonard shot the ball extremely well from three, continuing on from his last game against the Lakers. Kawhi has shot 62-percent from three in the last two games and his season percentage now sits at 37-percent on five attempts per game.

A lot of his makes were open looks, produced by some nice fluid basketball, but you still need to knock them down and that’s exactly what Kawhi did.

2. The return of Fred VanVleet can save the bench

The Raptors might have lost the game, but it was a great performance from Fred VanVleet in his first game since February 9.

VanVleet made an immediate impact with 17 points, one rebound, and four assists while shooting 6-10 from the field and 80-percent from three. VanVleet will give the bench instant and consistent scoring, being the only bench player, outside of Serge Ibaka to average double-digit points this season.

VanVleet looked refreshed in his first game back for the Raptors and was aggressive in getting his shot. It’s exactly what Toronto needs from its primary back-up guard.

3. But Jeremy Lin’s shooting woes continue

Eek. It’s really not looking good for Jeremy Lin at the moment, who struggled to put points on the board once again, last night. Lin had one bucket in 16 minutes of action, a three-pointer in the fourth quarter.

Lin now has an effective field-goal percentage of 36-percent in his first twelve games for the Raptors, highlighted by his poor 17-percent shooting from three on three attempts per game. Granted, Lin has provided sparks of steady defense so far this season, he knows how to put himself between the player and the basket and alter shot attempts.

However, the Raptors need buckets from Lin. The return of VanVleet can take some of the pressure off of Lin in terms of distribution, but he still needs to step up his game.

On the bright side, Lin has now made a three-pointer in each of his last five games, so there’s that.

Next. Bench Struggles Still Remain an Issue. dark

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