We’re almost there. Later this week, the Toronto Raptors will host Game 1 of a playoff series, and everything will matter again. There are still two more regular season games to get through, though, and while there isn’t a whole lot tangible to play for – the Raptors would love to hit the 60-win marker, as well as secure home-court advantage for a hypothetical NBA Finals meeting with the Golden State Warriors – there’s something to be said for entering the postseason in the type of rhythm the Raptors have been in the last three games.
In their way Monday are the Detroit Pistons, one of the only teams in the league in that weird middle area between tanking and competing for a playoff spot in earnest. Detroit just never found their gear after acquiring Blake Griffin mid-season, and when Reggie Jackson finally returned, it was too little, too late. They’re largely just playing out the string now, and it’s a safe bet that Monday will sound like a Raptors home game in Detroit, as it so often does.
Still, as always in these scenarios, the Pistons have a lot of players playing for roles and contracts and their existence in the league, so they can’t be taken lightly. The Raptors aren’t entirely at full strength, either. They’ll probably be just fine.
The game tips off at 7 on Sportsnet One and Sportsnet 590. You can check out the full game preview here.
A night after DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas received a reprieve, Serge Ibaka will sit for rest here. The Raptors have done a great job managing workloads for the bulk of the season, but as Norman Powell, Fred VanVleet, and Lucas Nogueira showed on Sunday, there’s never too much room for caution this late. Simply being on the floor is an unnecessary risk in a game that doesn’t mean a ton, and spreading the rest over games with Orlando and Detroit – teams the Raptors can beat shorthanded, anyway – will allow them to treat Wednesday’s season finale in Miami as a dress rehearsal without the risk of fatigue for the playoff opener on the weekend.
As for VanVleet and Nogueira, both will sit here. VanVleet has been dealing with some back tightness the team wants to take every precaution with, while Nogueira tweaked his hamstring in Sunday’s game. Nogueira was set for an MRI at some point – both players traveled with the team, so it’s unclear when – and the hope is that neither injury is serious. In VanVleet’s case, it sounds like something he’d be playing through if/when the games matter.
I’m not sure how meaningful it will end up being, but the Raptors appear to have recalled their G League pieces for reinforcement in this one. The 905 play back in Mississauga on Tuesday, and while the Austin-Detroit-Toronto trek isn’t the most seamless over three days, it won’t be tough to have them back in time for shootaround ahead of Game 2 of the G League Finals on Tuesday. Getting them some late-season run was probably always in the plans until the 905 decided to try to repeat as champions in earnest.
PG: Kyle Lowry, Delon Wright, Lorenzo Brown
SG: DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell
SF: OG Anunoby, C.J. Miles
PF: Pascal Siakam, Malcolm Miller, Alfonzo McKinnie
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Jakob Poeltl
OUT: Serge Ibaka, Fred VanVleet, Lucas Nogueira
905: Malachi Richardson
If you thought Detroit looked bad when they were competing for something, wait until you see them with nothing to play for! On top of the Pistons being eliminated and somewhat aimless ahead of what could be a very difficult offseason, they’ll be without star acquisition Blake Griffin here, as Griffin has an ankle bone bruise. Reggie Bullock (knee) and Jon Leuer (ankle) also remain sidelined, with Bullock’s absence in particular likely to stand out given his 3-and-D play as probably Detroit’s best wing this season.
Detroit will also sit Andre Drummond for no disclosed reason here, leaving us to assume the reason is Valanciunas-related.
PG: Reggie Jackson, Ish Smith, Jameer Nelson, Dwight Buycks, Kay Felder
SG: Luke Kennard, Langston Galloway, Reggie Hearn
SF: Stanley Johnson, James Ennis
PF: Anthony Tolliver, Henry Ellenson
C: Eric Moreland
OUT: Blake Griffin, Reggie Bullock, Jon Leuer, Andre Drummond
Grand Rapids: None
- Raptors 905 will play Game 2 of the G League Finals tomorrow in Mississauga. Lorenzo Brown, Malcolm Miller, Malachi Richardson, and Alfonzo McKinnie will all be on assignment. Raptors Republic readers can use the promo code 905RAPTORS for a discount on tickets for Game 2.
- The Raptors will play Game 1 of their first-round series at home on either Saturday or Sunday. The league denies that whatever leaks are on StubHub are accurate, though it’s certainly possible that what’s out there ends up accurate. Looking ahead, the Leafs will play a home game either Monday, so the Raptors could go Sat-Tues, Sun-Tues, or Sun-Wed.
- The Raptors are campaigning for the entire second unit to be considered for Sixth Man of the Year. It’s a nice effort, even if nobody is going to vote the entire bench in (Fred VanVleet will finish highest in the actual voting). Toronto couldn’t really single one guy out for the honor given how inextricable their performances have been, so as much as this opens up some fairly obvious jokes, it’s a worthwhile look.
Yo @SheaSerrano, we found the missing chapter from BAOT.
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) April 9, 2018
The Raptors are 5.5-point favorites with a 209 over-under.