With 7 of the next 8 games on the road against the West, it was mucho important the Raptors get this one against the Pistons. A Pistons team that grounded out a huge win the night before against the Magic. A Pistons team who was missing Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince. A Pistons team who we haven’t beat since March 2008. For the third game in a row, the Raptors came in with the cards stacked in their favour, but unlike the Magic and Grizzlies games, they were able to win. Hard to imagine that a game where the you put up 110 points could be ugly, but this bad boy had its moments.
You knew the Pistons were going to make a run to start the game. There only chance to steal this one was to come in guns blazing. Ben Gordon scored every time he wanted. DeRozan had his first real taste of what guarding an elite-level (Gordon scores like an elite SG, overall he isn’t) SG means. Ben dropped 12pts in the first 10 minutes of the 1st quarter all through the Raptors poor defense of the high pick-n-roll. Every-time he came off that screen, he had an equally good option to shoot or drive, and for fun, he mixed it up, keeping the Raptors on their toes. In one-on-one situations, he would blow by whoever had the misfortune of covering him. Everyone was bracing themselves for a 50pt night from Gordon; we even threw Belinelli at him and finally Antoine Wright checked in at the 2:40 mark of the 1st. The result: Gordon goes scoreless for the next 6 minutes. Amazing Triano didn’t bring Wright in earlier, but this was the first in a line of a few mistakes made during the course of the night.
On the offensive end, things weren’t much better. The Raptors looked out of sync, dropping passes and missing open shots. Turkoglu was the lone saving grace for much of the first. He was only person *cough* Jose *cough* creating scoring opportunities by attacking the paint, drawing the double and kicking out to an open jump shooter. Sadly, DeRozan and Calderon missed wide open shots, but he did find Bosh under the basket for a dunk. Calderon didn’t seem to be in the game. In fact, this was one of the worst games I have ever watched him play, including his rookie year. He didn’t create any opportunities for anyone, played horrible defense and had he not hit those two jumpers late (one a three), he would have incited a riot at the ACC.
The tide didn’t start to change until Jack entered the game with Wright at the 2:40 mark of the 1st. Where the Raptors were lethargic and sloppy, Jack came in and pushed the tempo. Stepping up to the challenge of stopping Stuckey/Bynum, and breathing life into the Raptors. Last night was a clear example as why the Raptors CAN’T start Jack: they need him coming off the bench breathing fire.
From the moment Jack, Wright and Belinelli stepped into the game, the Raptors went on a 24-8 run. Oakley even praised them saying how tough these guys are. On a side note, and I’m just putting this out there, but I wish Oakley stayed the night commentating. He talks, I listen, it’s simple, but I digress…These cats pushed the tempo, attacked the basket, hit their shots, and moved the ball around. Our boys got back into the game by attacking the basket. It’s simplistic to say so, but from the moment Jack got into the game, he took it to the rack and either finished, or found an open shooter for a great look. He even provided a highlight reel where he split he double team at the 3-point line, headed to the basket, and tossed a no-look-over-the-shoulder-pass to a cutting Bargnani for the dunk. Raptors head into the half up 68-56.
The 3rd quarter was tough to stomach. With Jack and Wright on the bench, the pace went back to brutal. Bosh carried the Raptors with his active play around the basket. Our boy grabbed a couple rebounds, but in a display of his maturity, attacked the basket and drew fouls instead of popping jumpers from 17ft. In a 7 min span from the last minute of the 1st quarter, he went to the line 10 times, and kept the Raptors in front. But the 3rd quarter belonged to Stuckey. Like a man possessed, he carried this team to within 8pts by the end of quarter by attacking. Three times, he split the double team at the 3-point and strolled in for the layup, once for an And-1. In three straight possessions, Stuckey dropped 7 points. Had it not been for Wright missing two free throws in the last 30 seconds of the quarter, the Raptors would have went into the 4th up 10.
The Pistons came out like gangbusters to start the 4th, going on a 15-5 run to take a 91-90 lead. At this point, I had the gun to my head and murmuring to anyone who would listen to me on twitter. Then Bosh fouled Maxiell, and put him on the line where he promptly missed both free throws, which would have been daggers. On the next possession, Bosh draws the double and kicks out to an open Calderon for a three. Bargnani scores the next 6 pts, and the Piston disappeared like a fart in the wind. It was more tense then that, but the important thing was that the Raptors were able to pull out a win after a total collapse.
The Four Factors to Winning
Shooting the Ball
The Raptors shot the ball well, but not great. You can attribute this to all the missed three point attempts – 16.
Raptors – 48.6%
Pistons – 49.3%
Taking Care of the Ball When you only turn the ball over 6 times in 92 possessions, good things will happen. Calderon and Jack protected the ball beautifully only turning it over once each.
Raptors – 6.5%
Pistons – 11.9%
Offensive Rebounding The Raptors grabbed 29.1% of all available offensive rebounds, giving them an extra 14 possessions.
Raptors – 29.1%
Pistons – 26.1%
Getting to the Free Throw Line The Raptors got to the free throw 47 times, converting 36. This is what won them the game.
Raptors – 61.8%
Pistons – 30.1%
Bargnani and Bosh led the charge, it’s tight, but Bargnani gets the edge.