Pistons 91, Raptors 112 – Box
Unless you’re a bottom-of-the-barrel team in this league there will be games that you’re expected and supposed to win. For the Raptors, hosting a Pistons squad playing on a back-to-back at home is one of those games. This would’ve been a story if the Raptors had lost, like it was against the Bobcats, but they managed to negotiate a first-half scare of sorts to quite easily handle a Pistons team that is equal parts painful and hilarious to watch.

The start wasn’t ideal with DeMar DeRozan testing our patience with his shot-selection. Maybe he saw Kentavious Caldwell-Pope guarding him and felt like making some sort of welcome-statement to the rookie, or maybe he thought he’d pick up where he left off in Indiana.  It wasn’t pretty as indicated by his jumper-heavy first quarter shot chart. He tends to give away where he’s going by sometimes lifting a leg or opening a shoulder, and it eventually allows for a better contest of his shot as the defense is in-step with him. He’s far more effective when he’s coming off curls or screens than he is in situations where the defense can opt for an easy switch or if the action takes him away from the rim. If the action is taking him towards the rim, there’s always a chance of foul, a dump-pass or even a kick-out, which gives a defense something else to think about. Once he accepted that his shot wasn’t falling, he decided to live at the FT line which was fairly easy to do being guarded by the likes of Singler, Stuckey and Caldwell-Pope.

DeRozan was 13-16 FT

“Just being more aggressive, that was my goal. I knew my shot wasn’t falling for me, so I just tried to do other things, be aggressive and try to create for my teammates.”

– DeMar DeRozan

[Read Sam’s Reaction Post Including Player Grades and Reader Voting]
[GIFs – Watch the Pistons fall for Jonas Valanciunas Pump Fakes]

The Raptors needed to offset DeRozan’s poor shooting and Detroit’s fast-break points (8-0 in 1Q) which were all the result of Raptor jumpers/turnovers being run back at them by Brandon Jennings. Terrence Ross (17pts, 5-10 3FG) calmly stepped up, or should I say stood behind the three-point line, and drained three threes and a jumper – all assisted (3 by Lowry, 1 by Patterson). Insert a generic statement here about confidence, but I’ll opt for a more well-defined and accepted role where he’s primarily a three-point shooter, not a high-flyer (that slam-dunk contest might’ve derailed his NBA career momentarily).

“Over a stretch of games physicality has been giving Jonas trouble and Amir trouble and we’ve got to combat that or we’re going to see it every night and its going to be our problem.”

– Dwane Casey

Sam is correct in his criticism of Ross that other than shooting “he did very little until the 4th where he snagged a couple rebounds”.  However, if you look his current play compared to how he was playing pre-trade, it’s a huge improvement and one that’s going some ways in filling the 3-point shooting void that was being felt.  He’s being a useful player in the rotation and that’s what you expect from his type of player at this stage in his career.

A moment of praise needs to be given to one Zarar Siddiqi for picking up Ross as a FA for his fantasy team just at the right time.

Jonas Valanciunas was doing better than he did in Indiana to keep up with Greg Monroe and finished the game with 16 points and 11 rebounds (Munroe had 11pts, 11 reb, Drummond had 6pts, 16 reb). He was most successful, not in the pick’ n roll, but when he worked hard to establish a position inside, received the ball and executed a hook within half a second.  Detroit has size in the front court and how Valanciunas was able to get off a shot while sealing a big is impressive:

He got a lot of slack for his performance in Indiana but sometimes we forget that he’s 21-years old.  He’s in his formative NBA years and working extremely hard, and there are moments (like they were last night) where he’s not in rebounding position, is late reading the drive, doesn’t anticipate strips or passing lane threats or see all his options when he’s got the ball in the block. Keep in mind that for a guy who has not played in the NCAA, did not go through the high-school system, had sporadic playing time with Lithuania in major tournaments, he’s doing fantastically well.

More importantly, the Raptors collectively were a +8 in rebounding for this game, which is a far cry than what happened against the Pacers (-17). Chuck Hayes gave them good minutes in the second and Greivis Vasquez connected in transition for a couple hoops and when the Raptors lead hit 11, you’d have thought the blowout would commence early. Cue a ridiculous 14-0 Detroit run where the Raptors went 0-9. Brandon Jennings going up against Vasquez hurt as the former, although being an atrocious player overall, moved the ball quickly up and down the court against a Raptor team that was nurturing some feelings that the game might’ve been over. At times Caldwell-Pope impressed with his quickness and Andre Drummond with his rebounding did the same; other than that, Detroit is awful to watch with Jennings and Rodney Stuckey jacking up horrible shots without fear of repercussion.

The Pistons went into the break up four but there wasn’t any need to worry. DeRozan went 0-5 in the second and Amir Johnson was an 0-fer as well in the half, missing some close-range efforts that he’d normally bury. The offense wasn’t flowing and John Salmons as the point-forward wasn’t paying any returns – it’s a flawed strategy for three reasons: 1) Salmons has a tendency to sidetrack into me-ball which is a morale killer, 2) he’s not nearly quick enough to punish slow hedgers or guards who opt to go over screens, and 3) he’s not a shooting threat which means the defense will more often than not given him the look his inner-chucker desires and wants to take. I’m a huge fan of Salmons as a defender and a light 3-and-D guy, and he should be allowed to be a pressure-release and handle the ball on occasion, but running sets through him is not a good idea. Going into the half the Raptors new that minor correction of easy-to-correct issues would net them a win.

The hammer, somewhat surprisingly, came in the third which the Raptors started off on an 8-0 spurt which was rather easily extended to a 17-4 run.  I don’t want to go into deep analysis of a half nobody will remember in a day, but we saw in the second half the Raptors team we’re used to seeing since the trade.  If you’ve seen any of the games you know what I’m talking about.  They had seven assists on eleven field goals, and if there’s one GIF that reflects just how much more alert the Raptors were than the Pistons, it’s this offensive rebound from Lowry which he snaps from Monroe’s hands as Charlie V fails to yell “watch out”.

Patrick Patterson – I’m running out of praise for this guy (Will’s got a piece on him at 3pm). Maybe it’s the zero expectations coming in that’s got me hyped up, whatever the case he’s filling a huge versatility void on this team. I love that he can cover wings on those late recovery situations on the perimeter, and on offense, he just knows when to cut:

It’s a simple cut, but there are way too many big men/stretch-fours out there that will stay on the baseline in that situation. Any time the offense is sputtering, throwing Patterson in is guaranteed to at least improve the player movement on the team. Once you combine that with the new rock-sharing nature of the team, only good things can happen.

The Raptors headed into the fourth quarter with a 10-point lead which was extended at the same ease at which it was created in the third.  Case closed, job well done.  I’m really enjoying casually brushing off 20-point blowouts like an opulent nouveau riche hipster The three-game home-stand continues and I’m targeting a 6-1 record in this stretch: vs DET, vs BKN, vs MIL, at BOS, vs MIN, vs LAL, at CHA.

One final note. I, for one, am glad that they changed the rules for the pizza so the Raptors have to win as well.  It avoids the embarrassing situation where the fans cheer wildly with the Raptors down 121-100 with 20 seconds left.  On this night, though, the victory was never really in question.

I’ll be on Steve’s podcast at noon and there’s a Patterson piece later in the day.

One last reminder – today is the final day to sign up your team for the RR tourney on February 15th at Crescent School in Toronto – if you have any questions, email zarars@raptorsrepublic.com.

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  • afrocarter

    How fitting that the last game of the homestand is against CHARLOTTE *shakes fist* we meet again.

  • ibleedpurple

    “Keep in mind that for a guy who has not played in the NCAA, did not go through the high-school system, had sporadic playing time with Lithuania in major tournaments, he’s doing fantastically well.”

    IMO even if he had all of that experience I would still say that he is developing at an excellent pace. Work ethic.

  • JayTeam

    “According to the story today by ESPN Insider Bradford Doolittle that relies on advanced stats to come up with a ranking of the NBA’s top 10 point guards, Kyle Lowry just might be one of the most underrated players in the league today.”

    Haven’t heard any discussion of this article (and I can’t discuss it since I no longer have Insider), but I’m not surprised by this blurb.

    • Zimdim

      I love KL. He is playing the best ball of his career and is in the best physical shape since becoming a rap.
      My only worry is that this type of work ethic only arrived in CONTRACT YEAR.
      Ujiri knows…

    • Age

      Lowry needs to be in the All-Star conversation this year, although it looks like its only going to be DeMar.

      Maybe if the Raps can pull of the 6-1, as this article suggests, headed into the All-Star break he can crack the line up

    • Ds

      4. Kyle Lowry | Toronto Raptors
      TrueWARP: 12.2 | 2013-14 WARP: 5.5 | Overall rank: 9

      It’s tempting to type an appeal for people to just recognize that Lowry is pretty good, but he remains the subject of numerous trade rumors, which kind of undermines that sentiment. Lowry was a controversial pick as the No. 8 point guard in the summer rankings. Since then, he’s gone out and played even better than his ATH forecast, and at present ranks ninth in the league in WARP. There have been two primary areas of improvement: Lowry is taking and making more 3s than ever before, and he’s posting the lowest turnover rate of his career.

      • JayTeam

        Thanks for the info. I just checked BP for the 1st time and although it has been obvious that Lowry has played well this year, I was still surprised to see him ranked Top 10 in the league in Win Shares. I keep hearing people say he’s not worth 4 yrs/$40 mill. His numbers seem to be saying otherwise..

        • jjdynomite

          Take it for what you will (maybe Zarar will since he picked up T-Ross) but in 9-category fantasy leagues (PTS, REB, AST, STL, BLK, FG%, FT%, 3s and TOs), Lowry is currently ranked #11 best player IN THE ENTIRE LEAGUE. Better than Harden and many other studs. (I’m glad I own him).

  • Branislav Bajovic

    Kudos to you for giving love to 2Pat. For me too he is an absolute revelation. Cannot stop laughing remembering Sac Kings blogger guy giving opinions in podcast after Rudy’s trade, dissing Patterson. God was he wrong. 😉 Hope he stays long enough to have remarkable career in TO.

    On the other hand it was sad to see where Charlie V.’s career is going. I kind of liked him always and I am so sad to see how last few years transpired to put him in a sorry state that he is in now. 🙁

    • jjdynomite

      Yes, Charlie V was an excellent spokesman for alopecia. Other than that, a lazy waste of talent. Good riddance.

  • AnthonyF

    When was the last time Toronto had a routine win? This year Toronto actually have had a few. Yesterday was a litmus test. Yes played Miami & Indiana hard, but still losses and this game had to be a win.

    Next 12 days will really tell the story. Regardless of their play as a fan I am always expecting the worst.

    Sad part is that Toronto really still have not had that last minute win. Yep forced overtime and beat Dallas, but also missed game winners vs.Miami, Brooklyn and a few others.

    17-17 is actually as bad a record as they should have. Won the games they should have, lost many they should have, blown huge leads, lost games late, but unlike Portland (per se) haven’t pulled one out in the last minute…….

    • AnthonyF

      Another point….. After reading that Minnesota is 0-10 in games decided by 4 points or less I checked the Raptors….. Almost as putrid at 1-6 (I am including the three OT losses and Miami on Sunday where Miami made 4 FT’s in the last 23 seconds). Can stretch it to 2-6 if credited the 6 point win over OKC, where they tied the game with 1:38 left and id not score thereafter.

      Incredible the stats that are available.

  • Bendit

    Is TimW on sabbatical or in the raphouse? 2Pat is a keeper.

    • jjdynomite

      Hopefully he quit to go write for the Knicks or Kings TrueHoop blogs where he pessimistic predictions and condescending attitude would be a stronger fit.

  • Roarque

    Call me paranoid but I’m still expecting the evil twin to show up wearing number seven. Be strong Kyle, resist the urge to go over to the dark side.

  • GetLicks

    Charlie V is a terrible basketball player, and it’s been that way for years. How he’s still in the NBA just boggles my mind.

    • tweed8

      The man, Kobe once called, “A cancer to his team”. Ouch.

      • DDayLewis

        Kevin Garnett, not Kobe.

      • nyStef

        No. What Charlie Villaneuva claimed was that Kevin Garnett called him a cancer patient. I recall it being said at the time (I think, from one report I read) that Garnett told him he ‘looked like a cancer patient’. Referring, no doubt, to the fact that Villaneuva is basically hairless, because of a condition he has called alopecia areata. All of which KG denied.

        • DDayLewis

          KG has a pretty nasty track record of doing shit like this, but other people who were present at the time of the incident have confirmed that KG simply said “you’re a bleeping cancer”. The word patient was not used.

          • nyStef
            • DDayLewis

              Yes, that repeats the fact that CharlieV thought Garnett called him a “cancer patient”, whereas other people, like Boston radio play-by-play announcer, who heard everything as it went down, who claim that Garnett merely said “you’re a bleeping cancer”, and the word “patient” was never used or implied.


              • nyStef

                I don’t see anything on that link you posted that says what you’re saying, but … it doesn’t really matter. I only said what I recalled — or what I had *thought* I recalled (so I looked to see that I wasn’t mis-remembering and posted the first link that was there) — and .. I just looked again, and they all seem to say that KG called him a cancer patient. But no worries. I’m sure that what you remember is correct. Cheers.

                • DDayLewis

                  Ahh shit, the audio player isn’t on there for some reason. Sorry about that. Grande explains in the KG/CV situation in that podcast.

              • Thornbury

                Yeah, cuz Boston play-by-play guys are as fair and balanced as Fox News.

                • DDayLewis

                  Lol Sean Grande is no Tommy Trollsohn.

  • Maputo88

    Doolittle ranks KL as 4th PG behind Chris Paul, Steph Curry & Russel Westbrook, one ahead of John Wall and 3 ahead of Kyrie Irving. KL is an AllStar candidate. Doolitle is looking at the best 10 players in each position; at SG, DD is not in the top 10, 15, in fact there is no mention of him at all. In a previous piece Doolitlle calls DD an empty stats guy. We saw that last night, but what the stats don’t see is Dd drawing fouls and double teams and hence creating space. This is a significant part of the Raps success, the crappy shooting is not. DD should not be an AllStar – only Matt Devlin thinks he should be. Nuff said.

  • ckh26

    Thought last nite was a thorough *ss kicking handed down by the purple and black to the motor city madmen. For the first time in a few years, even though we were behind at the half, felt that there was no cause for concern or dread. They did make the adjustments at the half and came back to win this convincingly.
    Liked the way JV came back in the 2nd half after a pretty spotty showing in the 1st. Drummond went for those pump fakes like he was a trained seal. Snet showed a couple of shots of the Detroit bench towards the end. Looked like the family pet had just died with the looks on their faces.

    The front line of Smith / Drummond and Monroe doesn’t work very well .Detroit didn’t make the qualifying offer to Monroe. Wonder if there is an oppty to make a deal with Detroit for him. It’ll cost us thats for sure but that would make for a pretty imposing front line of our own (JV at the 5, Monroe at the 4 and one of DD/Ross at the 3 with Kyle at the 1) and allow Amir to come in off the bench with a much stronger 4 man rotation. Not likely to happen but that would move us to the point to challenge most anyone any night. .

    • jjdynomite

      Amir is better than Monroe, though, and not much older. Better FT%, more blocks and much better FG%. Monroe will also likely cost more due to his relative youth.

      • ckh26

        Think Monroe has a higher ceiling than Amir. Monroe will cost as he is an RFA. Detroit will likely let the marketplace establish his value and then match the offer sheet. We can dream though. It would be counterproductive to actually trade players that Detroit would insist on getting if it were to be a straight up player swap before the trade deadline this year..

  • AB4EYE

    How on earth did the Piston’s beat the Pacers and the Heat?

  • Louvens Remy

    Book a win against Brooklyn, Milwaukee and Boston. 20-17 here we come!

  • Age