Pre-game news & notes: Ibaka, Gallinari, and Millsap rumblings; Patterson remains out; Poeltl starts

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It feels like it’s been forever since the Toronto Raptors played. In reality, they only had three days off, but that’s a veritable lifetime given how dense the schedule has been to this point. And as discussed in the pre-game, it probably provided a much-needed break – physically and mentally – for a struggling Raptors team. They’ll look to right the ship now with three games in four days before the All-Star break, starting when the Detroit Pistons visit on Sunday.

There’s a lot of news to touch on below, and I had you covered in the pre-game, so let’s get on with it.

The game tips off at 6 on TSN and Sportsnet 590. You can check out the full game preview here.

Raptors updates
Sunday stands as a really nice test for the recent play of Jonas Valanciunas. Valanciunas is enjoying one of his best two-way stretches since his post-season injury, and he and Andre Drummond always have some fun battles. Defending Drummond on the dive and on the block, exploiting him on the other end, and playing even on the glass would put Toronto in a good position to beat Detroit. It’s not all on Valanciunas – Kyle Lowry admitted Saturday the team needs to do a better job keeping him involved – but Valanciunas can’t allow inconsistency to set back in, either. In his last seven meetings with Detroit, he’s scored 31, 20, 12, 8, 15, 11, and 32. Feed him.

The lone question mark for the Raptors beyond who draws inactive is whether or not Patrick Patterson finally returns. Dwane Casey will likely update Patterson’s status in his pre-game availability – I’m posting these notes earlier than usual because of the trade rumblings below – so check back for that. You know the drill by now with Patterson: If he goes, he’ll stabilize the starting unit defense and help the second lineup by allowing Dwane Casey to find some consistency there, particularly with lineups to start the second and fourth quarters. If he can’t, the rotation at the four will remain exceptionally fluid, left to play out based on matchups and game flow.

UPDATE: Patterson is a game-time decision. Casey said he looked good in practice Saturday, but a determination won’t be made until afetr he goes through his pre-game work.

UPDATE II: Patterson is out again. At this point it might just make sense to sit him through the break.

UPDATE III: Jakob Poeltl starts at power forward. This is a very interesting look opposite Jon Leuer, and it will be Poeltl’s first extended run at the four. He’s played almost exclusively center so far, even when alongside Lucas Nogueira, and he’s only played a handful of minutes with Valanciunas. Poeltl’s shown nice flashes in the limited minutes he’s been given, and this should be a good opportunity for him to make a case for more run even when Patterson returns.

PG: Kyle Lowry, Cory Joseph, Delon Wright, Fred VanVleet
SG: DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell
SF: DeMarre Carroll, Terrence Ross, Bruno Caboclo
PF: Jakob Poeltl, Pascal Siakam, Jared Sullinger
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Lucas Nogueira
TBD: None
OUT: Patrick Latterson

Pistons updates
The Pistons are the picture of health. Also, Boban Marjanovic is enormous. I mean, I’ve seen him play live before, but we just walked past each other in a hallway, and he is, umm, significantly larger than your boy. Anyway, the Pistons have their full contingent available, and while most of their top lineups have performed poorly, their starting group has begun to find a nice chemistry together.

PG: Reggie Jackson, Ish Smith, Beno Udrih
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Darrun Hilliard, Reggie Bullock
SF: Marcus Morris, Stanley Johnson, Michael Gbinije
PF: Jon Leuer, Tobias Harris, Henry Ellenson
C: Andre Drummond, Aron Baynes, Boban Marjanovic
TBD: None
INJ: None


  • Per Marc Stein of ESPN, there is “a growing sense” that Serge Ibaka could be moved ahead of the deadline, and that “Sources say that Toronto and Miami are among the Eastern Conference teams that have expressed interest in Ibaka this month.” The plan is apparently for the Magic to field options up until the deadline, then choose the best package. We covered the Ibaka stuff here and here.
    • In the same piece, Stein says there is skepticism about Paul Millsap being off the market. The Hawks are “adamant” he’s staying put, though. I’ll believe it at 3 p.m. on Feb. 23. More of my Millsap thoughts are here and here.
  • NOT covered here elsewhere but included in Stein’s news dump: The Raptors, among others, are monitoring the availability of Danilo Gallinari. I’ve long lusted after Gallinari as the quintessential Third Option for the Raptors’ offense, writing before the season that he may wind up the best consolation prize the Raptors could hope for if big names didn’t hit the market. While the fit wouldn’t be seamless with him and Carroll splitting forward duties (Gallinari is not an elite defender), and offense isn’t exactly a pressing need, he may wind up the most talented name on the move, if he can be had. He’ll almost surely opt out this offseason to become an unrestricted free agent, and there’s a fair amount of injury red tape in his past, so dealing assets to acquire him under the assumption he could be re-signed long-term comes with some risk. Still, when it comes to a player that talented who fits the Raptors’ timeline for contention, and who may not cost the farm in terms of assets, he’s definitely worth a call on. If nothing else, it’s nice that there are apparently more second-tier names to call on than originally expected.
  • Jared Sullinger, Fred VanVleet, and Bruno Caboclo were all recalled from Raptors 905 for this one. Sullinger had a really nice outing last night (I caught it this morning), really embracing his role as a connector and letting a red-hot set of shooters around him cook while getting his shots within the flow of things. Expect Caboclo and one of the point guards to be assigned again afterward, as the 905 have a home game Tuesday when the Raptors visit Chicago.
  • Some cool “this day in history stuff for the Raptors.

The line
The Raptors are 7-point favorites, up from 6.5 this morning, as predicted. The over-under has nudged higher to 212.5 from 211. I’ll wait on Patterson’s status to make a firm call on a score, but the Raptors are winning this game.

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