There is a lot riding on this game. The Raptors are barely in 6th place in the East, they are on a 3 winning streak, and can sweep the season series with the Pistons if they have another solid showing. They were able to solidify the Nets win with follow up victories over the Hornets and Pistons, and if they win on Sunday, they will give themselves in an opportunity to finish 2009 on a 5 game winning streak (and close to within 1 game of .500).

Even though the Pistons are injury ridden, they can’t be taken lightly. There is a lot of fight in these guys. I checked in with Dan Feldman of PistonPowered.com to get his take on this matchup and what he thinks about the Pistons season so far:

What you think about the first two times the Pistons/Raptors played this season?

Both times, the Pistons had played the night before and the Raptors were on two days rest. Yes, Toronto has looked excellent in those games. But both teams are on three days rest this time. I’m not ready to concede the Raptors are so much better than the Pistons until we see this third game — and maybe not even then if Richard Hamilton and Ben Gordon return from injury, but look rusty.

How are the signings of Gordon/Villanueva working out?

When healthy, both have looked pretty good. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been often. I’m cautiously optimistic at this point, but that’s a little more pessimistic than the start of the season. (Note: He provides a great scouting report on Charlie V here, great read)

Are the Pistons a playoff team?

If they were healthy all year, I have little doubt they would be. It just depends how quickly Hamilton, Gordon, Tayshaun Prince and Villanueva can get healthy. Detroit may be too far back at that point. As of now, my guess is yes, but I’m hardly confident.

Do Hamilton and/or Prince get traded this year?

Probably not. I certainly think Joe Dumars would be willing, but I don’t think he wants to give them away. With so many teams either in financial trouble or saving their cap space for the summer, I doubt he’d find a taker.

The Raptors did catch the Pistons twice when they were playing the second night of a back-to-back, but they took advantage. Both times, they weathered the early storm, and cruised to a win. Tomorrow, the Pistons will be well rested, so they wont need to push so hard from the tip in hopes the Raptors will fold early. That being said, they have nagging injury problems (Hamilton, Gordon (questionable) and Prince) and regardless of how well rested they are, they just don’t have the horses.

Detroit was able to stay in the last game with an incredible effort on the offensive glass, where they grabbed 23 offensive rebounds that resulted in 30 second chance points. Bosh and Bargnani will have to battle on the glass from the get go. I can’t even stress this enough, if we win the battle of the boards, the Pistons have no chance. Zero.

I came down hard on Bosh for not scoring enough last game, and I still stand by that. He dropped 12 points last game, and regardless of how much we won by, that production wont cut it against better teams. It can be argued that he didn’t need to produce as much since the Raptors had the game early, but he did play 33 minutes, so he was out there for a significant period of time. The Raptors need a balanced attack where Bosh/Bargnani are both contributing 17+ points a game, with Jack and Turkolgu running the show.

Jack and Turkoglu played masterful games on Wednesday creating for everyone. Seems like Triano is on to something with his usage of Hedo, I must say that I’m liking it. Still not a Triano fan, but he is learning his lessons, late as they may be.

I’m calling another Raptor win Sunday, too much has to go right for the Pistons to beat them.

On another note, we are very pleased to announce the newest addition to The Republic: Arsenalist and his family welcomed Alia to the world on Christmas day – a Festivus miracle! The kid is damn cute, Arse did well on this one.

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