This is not your dad’s Toronto Raptors.
Kawhi Leonard, Marc Gasol and Kyle Lowry showed the best versions of themselves on Friday night in a 119-117 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers. With the pieces all seeming to slot into place and the elevated basketball IQ level and experience allowing the transition for the new additions to be virtually seamless, Toronto is once again sending out those feel-good vibes that were around when they started the season 20-4.
The Raptors lost three straight after that hot start, one of them to former coach Dwane Casey and his Detroit Pistons. He’ll be looking to carry over his winning ways from a dramatic finish at Scotiabank Arena that saw the Pistons shock the Raptors with a buzzer-beating 106-104 victory. Reggie Bullock hit the winner that capped off a second-half rally after trailing by as many as 19 points.
That’s a good reminder that the Pistons have made a few noteworthy changes to their rotation themselves, adding Wayne Ellington through the buyout market and acquiring the services of Raptor killer Thon Maker. They also traded Reggie Bullock for Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, who hasn’t really figured into the rotation.
Detroit has been playing much better basketball of late winning eight of their last 10 and Andre Drummond has been playing some of the best basketball of his career. He finished February (10 games) averaging 21.2 points, 16.1 rebounds, 2.4 blocks and 2.4 steals while shooting 63.2 percent from the field and an improved 65.6 percent at the free-throw line.
The 25-year-old has had brief stretches of improved effort and intensity before, so it will be interesting to see how he closes out the season and potentially the playoffs. The Pistons currently sit seventh in the Eastern Conference with a one-and-a-half game lead over the Orlando Magic and Charlotte Hornets. Over the course of their 10 game surge, they are scoring 118 points per 100 possessions which is good for first in the league since Jan. 30. They are also allowing a fourth-best 107.7 points per 100 possessions, according to Cleaning the Glass.
Reggie Jackson is another who has been pivotal to the Pistons’ change in fortunes, scoring 19.7 points with strong efficiency and distributing 4.8 assists over 10 February games. Ellington has given the Pistons exactly what they were looking for with his ability to stretch the floor but Thon Maker has yet to come into his own.
Casey will surely turn to every page in the book to find a way to beat the Raptors and if the Pistons can keep up their level of play, this should make for another entertaining game for Toronto.
Time: 6:00 p.m. ET / 3:00 p.m. PT.
TV: TSN 2. Radio: Sportsnet 590 The Fan.
Kawhi Leonard has been confirmed as out for this game due to load management. Fred VanVleet remains out as he recovers from surgery to repair ligament damage to his left thumb. Everyone else is healthy but Jodie Meeks’ 10-day contract expired on Saturday and the Raptors have another 13 days to fill the roster spot.
PG: Kyle Lowry, Jeremy Lin
SG: Danny Green, Patrick McCaw
SF: Norman Powell, Malcolm Miller
PF: Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby
C: Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Chris Boucher
OUT: Fred VanVleet, Kawhi Leonard
José Calderon hasn’t played since before the All-Star break and appears to have fallen out of the rotation with a healthy Ish Smith to backup a Reggie Jackson who has been playing very well of late. There are no injuries to report.
PG: Reggie Jackson, Ish Smith, José Calderon
SG: Bruce Brown, Luke Kennard, Langston Galloway
SF: Wayne Ellington, Glenn Robinson III, Khyri Thomas, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk
PF: Blake Griffin, Jon Leuer
C: Andre Drummond, Thon Maker, Zaza Pachulia
After the confirmation that Leonard will miss this game, the Raptors are two-point favorites (initially 4.5-point favs) and the over/under is set at 217.