Dominic McGuire, SF21 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 0 PTS | -8Ugly on O, ugly on D. He’s getting exposed with extended minutes – Tayshaun Prince ate him for breakfast early in the game and then with a jump hook late.
Andrea Bargnani, C38 MIN | 13-20 FG | 5-6 FT | 5 REB | 4 AST | 34 PTS | -3After all the talk the past couple of weeks, Andrea responded to the haters with his best overall game of the season. His hot shooting was the only reason the Pistons didn’t blow the game open in the first half, and besides some expected defensive issues (recovering when he hedged out to help the hapless Raptor wings in the zone) he gave an excellent effort on both ends of the floor. I wish Lowry looked for him for the final shot, but it’s not like the Raps had time to set up a play. Great game from Bargs tonight.
Jonas Valanciunas, C31 MIN | 3-6 FG | 3-4 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 9 PTS | -7The kid has the heart of a lion and I’m glad the ankle injury doesn’t appear serious – but he got abused by Andre Drummond late in the game (3 offensive boards in 3 trips at one point). Pre-injury, he was having a pretty solid game, showing off a variety of moves in the low post and doing his best to contend with Detroit’s big men in the midst of some ugly team rotations. Got caught in a lot of 2-on-1 situations through no fault of his own.
Kyle Lowry, PG32 MIN | 6-17 FG | 5-7 FT | 6 REB | 5 AST | 19 PTS | -2Very slow start but turned things up in the second half, keying a Raptor run after the Pistons threatened to put the game away in the third. Both he and DeMar seemed hesitant to take the ball to the hoop until the second half, but when he started to do that it opened up the rest of his offensive game as well. Seemed to be holding his ankle late in the fourth but I still have no idea why he was coming out on the offense/defence switches instead of Kleiza.
DeMar DeRozan, SG34 MIN | 2-9 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 5 PTS | -5It seemed like fatigue from big minutes to start the season may be catching up to DeMar, who submitted a really rough performance tonight, forcing up shots and looking sluggish on D. Hit a couple of nice hook shots in the lane in the 3rd quarter to save himself from an F, but it was telling that the team wasn’t even looking his way when they needed buckets at the end of the game.
Ed Davis, PF10 MIN | 3-5 FG | 3-3 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 9 PTS | +2Only 10 minutes of work but they were key minutes, and his effort on both ends was evident tonight. Played solid D on Greg Monroe early in the 4th quarter, and his hustle on the offensive glass was key in the bench’s late 3rd/early 4th surge.
Amir Johnson, PF17 MIN | 2-4 FG | 1-1 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 5 PTS | +6Good game from Amir, who did all the little things that didn’t show up in the stat line. The Raptors dismal zone D in the first half would have been even worse if it weren’t for Amir, who battled hard with both Monroe and Drummond even when outmanned. Made some good decisions in the low post on the offensive end, particularly when Drummond was on him – he was able to use his speed advantage to get to the rim and/or find open looks for his teammates.
Linas Kleiza, SF24 MIN | 2-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 4 PTS | 0Had a couple of nice post-ups on Kyle Singler in the fourth, but for the most part was ineffective offensively – which was made doubly an issue, because he was a total sieve defensively tonight, getting blown-by by Cory Maggette regularly. It’s only because of McGuire’s futility that he was getting minutes late in the game.
Jose Calderon, PG16 MIN | 1-2 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 5 PTS | +5Not the most impressive stat line but, besides that, a typical Jose game, playing efficient basketball on the offensive end and hitting a big 3 to get the team over the hump and give them the lead in the fourth. Was also one of the few Raptor wings to not look totally lost in their zone – totally swallowed up Will Bynum when he was out there.
Terrence Ross, SG17 MIN | 0-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | +7Tough one for Ross, who found his shots within the offensive flow and didn’t seem to force anything, but just couldn’t hit. Looked a bit lost when the team was playing in a zone, but, to be fair, so did every other wing on the team. Seemed much more comfortable in man situations.
Five Things We Saw
The tough road schedule seemed to come back to bite the Raptors tonight, as the team (minus Bargnani) looked sluggish out of the gate. Forcing up jump shots and being late on defensive rotations are hallmarks of a tired team, and it was only because of the calibre of the opposition that the Raptors were even able to keep the game close into the second half.
I know I spoke about Andrea with his grade, and I’ll elaborate more tomorrow in my longer post-game, but he was excellent tonight. Getting “his” right out of the gate seemed to invigorate him, and he was spot on with his offensive game, working hard on the glass, and passable on defence (which is more than most of the team could say until the fourth). Don’t get me wrong, he was still doing Bargnani things – jacking the shot up early in the clock, not always looking for his teammates – but when your shot’s falling, that goes from a negative to a positive, and he hit some IMPOSSIBLE shots tonight.
In no game were our difficulties at the 3 more evident than tonight, and that’s saying something. McGuire, Kleiza and Ross all got their turns, and were all ineffective on both ends of the floor, for the most part. If Casey’s really that averse to trying unconventional lineups to fill that gap (I was praying for him to try Bargs there for stretches tonight), I’ll be the first to say I’m crossing my fingers for Fields’ return (yes, things are that dire).
Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond will both come away from this game from impressive stat lines, but that wasn’t due to the effort from our bigs on defence. The Raptors played in a soft zone for the better part of the first 3 quarters of the game, and slow rotations by our wings allowed the Pistons to take advantage of a Raptor big coming out to help (usually Bargnani) and then finding a wide open forward in the low post. I don’t know if the zone was a way to combat our perceived strength deficiencies against Monroe, Maxiell, and Drummond, but the entire team looked more comfortable (and were more effective) in man-to-man sets.
3 road games, 3 blown fourth quarter leads. The Raps had all the opportunities in the world to win the game tonight, but just couldn’t get a stop when it mattered most. Lowry gets some reprieve on his last-second heave as the whole offensive unit was just standing around and time was short, but this team needs to have a plan closing out games if they want to turn their season around before it’s too late. Usually, we have an alpha-dog issue late in the game but not tonight – it was clearly Bargs – but the entire team, coaches and players, didn’t seem prepared for the Pistons to take the lead, and they paid the price. You have to hope that some of these things will come along as the season plays out, but 3 close losses is a tough pill to swallow.