The comeback from 25 down was the largest in club history, eclipsing the previous mark of 22, set three times including last year against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Clutch shooting by Andrea Bargnani and Jerryd Bayless and a great defensive play by Leandro Barbosa on a bizarre alley-oop pass to Rodney Stuckey with Detroit down three with under 20 seconds to go clinched the thrilling comeback.
“It’s heartbreaking,” said Pistons forward Tayshaun Prince.
“I just don’t know you walk off that court and lose that game.”
Bargnani had tied the proceedings at 110 with a three, Bayless hit one of his own and hit a driving layup and drew fouls on another.
That gave Detroit 20.3 seconds to tie matters but head coach John Kuester inexplicably drew up a two-point play.
Leandro Barbosa’s long three at the halftime buzzer got things going for the Raptors who trailed 72-53 at the break thanks to 14 turnovers to Detroit’s one.
“The game is over only when the buzzers sound,” said Barbosa, who had 22 points and seven assists.
“(At halftime) We said: ‘Hey, we’re embarrassing ourselves by playing at this level,’” said forward Julian Wright, strong again with four steals.
“At halftime we just held each other accountable,” added Bayless who started for the second game in a row with Jose Calderon out due to injury and scored a career-high 31 points, along with seven assists and five rebounds.
“The coaches (said stuff) but moreso, we ended up talking. We’re not communicating, guys aren’t telling each other what we were doing. It was a total team effort.”
The Raptors have not had a lot of players putting in consistent efforts offensively this season, but Andrea Bargnani has been an exception.
Twenty points or more from the big man has become all but expected, opposing coaches are now building their game plans around him.
“Bargnani has increased his game from just a three-point, mid-range shooter to now, all-of-a-sudden looking to post up more,” said Pistons head coach John Kuester before Saturday’s game against Toronto.
Bargnani’s production has been huge, since the Raptors really don’t know what they are going to get on a nightly basis from everybody else.
“We’ve had a lot of guys that have not played well. I don’t think we can pin-point the same person two-three nights in a row,” said Toronto head coach Jay Triano.
“It’s like some guys get it going and two three more drop off and I think that’s just the development of our young players.”
We all know this year is more about next year than this year, which is why giving the Bayless the starting job over the expendable Jose Calderon makes a ton of sense.
Yes, Calderon probably gives us a better chance to win on a nightly basis, but we can all agree that making the playoffs is not an expectation this season, though depending on who you ask it would still be nice.
We all agree, however that Jose Calderon is not our answer at the point guard position.
We also know that Calderon is one of the best backup point guards in the NBA.
So why not see if Bayless has that potential in extended run in a virtual "lost" season?
There are three or more lottery bound point guards in the 2011 NBA draft and the Raptors need to do their due diligence now as the way we draft will be affected by the Raptors outlook on Bayless future as a starting PG in the NBA.
It looked as though the Pistons offensive talent was finally shining, or at least taking advantage of a porous defensive team, as they scored an astronomical 72 points in the first half; 43 of them (!) coming in the second quarter (on 15-25 shooting with 10 assists). But, once again, the second half was lackadaisical and had the all-too-familiar feeling of yet another Pistons collapse. The Pistons entered the 4th quarter with a 16-point lead, but it almost felt like a deficit (from my perspective). Sadly, given the complacency they showed in the third quarter, and knowing how this season has gone so far, it honestly felt like the Pistons would find a way to lose.
Ugh, and they freaking did.
The Raptors continued their hot shooting (above 60% all game) through the fourth quarter and the Pistons scored just 17, making for a difference of 20, and a final difference of four, in favor of the Raptors at the end of 48 minutes. Although there was still over a minute remaining, Jerry Bayless’ three-pointer to give the Raptors a 113-110 lead was the kiss of death.
Hilarious and unfunny, both at the same time.
"That first half was as good an offensive half as we’ve had all year," said Pistons coach John Kuester. "We were clicking on all cylinders — 12 assists, one turnover. We were really doing a good job with the basketball.
"The problem was we gave them momentum with that 6-0 run at the end of the third. All of a sudden, a 22-point lead turns to 16 and puts them within striking distance. Give them credit. They made shots. They did some outstanding things."
Said Pistons forward Tayshaun Prince, who scored 12 points: "I think what happened was self-explanatory. I won’t say a tale of two halves because I thought we came out in the third quarter and tried to put a stamp on the game.
"They have that type of firepower offensively to make that happen, but … that’s unexplainable. That’s typical of what has been going on this season. I can’t explain it. I’m pretty sure you guys will try to explain it."
ALL IT TOOK WAS ONE HORRID HALF OF TURNOVERS AND MISTAKES A NICE LITTLE LOCKER-ROOM SQUABBLE TO SET THEM ON THEIR WAY.
“THEY WERE ALL PISSED AT EACH OTHER AND RIGHTFULLY SO AND THEY WERE . . . GOING BACK AND FORTH AT EACH OTHER,” COACH JAY TRIANO SAID OF THE HALFTIME CHAT WHEN TORONTO TRAILED 72-53. “THE ONLY THING I SAID TO THEM WAS, ‘YOU KNOW WHAT, YOU CAN’T HAVE THIS KIND OF FIRE WITH EACH OTHER. YOU’VE GOT TO HAVE IT WITH THE OTHER TEAM. SO TAKE IT OUT ON THE PISTONS, DON’T TAKE IT OUT ON THE GUYS YOU LIVE WITH EVERY DAY, TAKE IT OUT ON THE GUYS YOU’RE PLAYING AGAINST.’
“AND THEY PLAYED MUCH BETTER IN THE SECOND HALF.” THERE’S THE UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE SEASON.
“WE JUST HAD TO BE ACCOUNTABLE TO OURSELVES AND STEP UP TO THE PLATE AND WE KNEW WHAT WE HAD TO DO,” SAID AMIR JOHNSON OF THE HALFTIME CHAT.
Starting all seven games, Alabi averaged 8.6 points, 6.7 rebounds and three blocks. Based on a Toronto Star article, Alabi didn’t play as much as he expected.
"I thought I was going to go there and play a lot of minutes and get in the game mode, but the coach has his own coaching system. I went out there and played hard whatever minutes he gave me," Alabi said.
Johnson said the team would welcome Alabi back if the Raptors sent him down again, but is miffed by Alabi’s comments about lack of playing time.
NBA teams can send down their first or second-year players up to three times a season.
"I’m not saying he’s a whiner, but it’s about the effort you put in on the court," Johnson said.
Alabi averaged just 22.7 minutes a game for Erie, but he also averaged four fouls a game.
The second-round pick out of Florida State fouled out of his last game with Erie on Tuesday.
"Everyone always want to play more," first-year Erie coach Jay Larranaga said. "It’s normal. "
"Busted and disgusted," Wallace said. "We had an opportunity to get a win and then we took it off. Busted and disgusted. I am getting tired of losing. It ain’t no fun, especially when you have control of the game and let it get away."
Kuester said he will spend his off day Sunday looking at film trying to figure out what happened to an offense that hummed for three quarters before being outscored 37-17 in the fourth quarter and closed the game on a 43-17 run.
One mistake may have been sitting Tracy McGrady the entire second half. But Kuester thought the game was over and wanted to rest McGrady, who hobbled after a play in the first half.
"I am pointing one finger at myself," Kuester said. "That is what I want you guys to understand. Our guys played hard."
Starting in place of an injured Jose Calderon, Bayless terrorized the Pistons. Never mind that he had been averaging around nine a night since being traded to the Raptors in late November – he definitely had no problem slicing through Detroit’s defense.
Bayless finished the night 10-12 from both the floor and the free-throw line, matching his career-high with 31 points. He also chipped in seven assists and five rebounds.
Bayless wasn’t the only Raptor with a hot hand. Teammates Andrei Bargnani, DeMar DeRozan and Leandro Barbosa each shot the ball at least 13 times and converted on better than half those attempts. As a team, Toronto shot 62.9 percent from the floor.
Still, despite Toronto’s hot shooting, it’s unbelievable the Pistons let this one get away. Detroit shot over 50 percent, scored more points in the paint, attempted 19 more field goals, hauled in 10 more offensive rebounds and committed six less turnovers.
This Julian Wright kid is beginning to look like a really good player. I had a chance to be at the Denver game and watched the change in the team defense when he was on the floor. It happened again today. He changes the intensity of the team’s defense. He play his man tight and he helps force turnovers. His contribution will never show up on a score sheet but he makes an unquestionable difference when he’s on the court. With Sonny Weems and Demar Derozan disappearing every other game, Julian could become an important piece off the bench. Over the last two games he has made a huge impact on the team and is becoming a very important part of the club. I hope he gets some more minutes.
Yes, it was the biggest comeback in franchise history, but at the same time, the Raptors cannot continue down this road.
Lost in the past week is the team that we saw in November. November’s team played aggressive defense and had a solid identity going in from game-to-game. Now we’re seeing a return to last year’s league worst defense. I’m seeing a lot more of a team that just refuses to gel together or do the hard things that make it possible for a "less talented" team to win. The hustle plays and attention to defense are no longer there on a nightly basis.
This is not a way to become a hungry team that will surprise their opponents and take them down thanks to superior team play.