Morning Coffee

Morning Coffee – Mon, Mar 4

46-18; Casey gets the upper hand-again…bah

Casey gets better of Raptors again, and 9 other takeaways from an overtime loss to the Pistons – The Athletic [subscription]

The Raptors missed big shots, too, with Lowry and Green both misfiring on threes. Anunoby then got a look at a three off an offensive rebound and hesitated before taking an ill-advised shot he likely took to maintain the two-for-one-advantage in the final seconds. Even still, Toronto had a chance to tie, but Lowry missed a transition layup.

It’s unfortunate that these valuable crunch-time reps couldn’t come with Kawhi Leonard in the mix for greater chemistry-building like they did Friday. It’s unfortunate to lose any close game, really. (The Raptors are 19-11 in games within five in the final five minutes, for what it’s worth.)

The outcome should not detract from what was a terrific Lowry game overall. He scored 35 points on 31 used possessions, the first time he’s dropped 35 in a game since Jan. 20, 2018. He knocked down six threes, pushed the pace in transition, hit the glass and generally flew around doing Lowry things. His five assists were modest on a night his teammates shot poorly and he shared playmaking duties in the starting unit, and it made for a different type of dominant Lowry game. We’ve seen countless examples of him leading the charge by doing everything else and scoring only a little, and this was a reminder that at his best, Lowry can also be a major source of secondary offence for this team. (In this case, it was primary offence, as Leonard sat for load management.)

There’s a chance Lowry’s big night gets forgotten quickly because of the missed layup in the final moments. It should not. He’s put together a couple of really good weeks now, and Lowry playing at this kind of level is the most important thing to the Raptors’ playoff ceiling short of Leonard’s health.

Casey’s Pistons prove they can pose problems for Raptors down the road –

The Raptors, who played on Tuesday and Friday this past week, have shifted their rationale for resting Leonard since the beginning of the year when there was plenty of optimism that Leonard’s need for ‘load management’ was a short-term thing.

Remember when Leonard was eventually going to be fit enough to play in back-to-backs?

Now it’s hard getting him to play three games in a week given Leonard hasn’t played three consecutive games since early January. It’s no longer a matter of getting Leonard healthy, it’s about keeping him that way.

“We’re again trying to just stay ahead of the game a little bit with him,” said Nurse. “I know it’s not a back-to-back but it’s a little earlier start. We are just trying to keep him super healthy as we come down the stretch here.

“We just don’t see, really, any reason to put any extra stressors on him … it’s been a long time since he played a full-ish season. We’re just trying to stay ahead of the game.”

It will be interesting if the Raptors will be able to reach their full potential with so much game-to-game disruption in their lineup. It was their late-game defensive execution that may have suffered Sunday, but the next game it could be something else.

“I think we’re still a long ways away from being in the playoffs mode,” said Marc Gasol who just missed an open look at the end of regulation that would have sent the Raptors home with a win. “We’re still trying things and feeling out some things offensively and defensively that can work for us. At this point we’re not thinking about other teams, we’re working on our own stuff and seeing what combinations of guys, schemes, plays work, We’re not at that point yet.”

Lowry’s season-best game not enough to topple gritty Pistons – Video – TSN

Dwane Casey improved to 2-0 against his former team as the Pistons grinded out an overtime victory against the Raptors. Rod Black and Leo Rautins break down a game in which Kyle Lowry nearly willed Toronto to victory, before ultimately coming up short in Detroit.

Pistons match Raptors’ grit, physicality in potential playoff preview –

Pistons coach Dwane Casey called it a playoff-type win, and this could be a first-round matchup.

“We found a way, a gritty win,” Casey said. “We’re developing an identity that we got to have to win big-time in this league. That was a playoff game, that’s the way it’s going to be in the playoffs.”

The Pistons are 9-2 in their past 11 and reached .500 (31-31) for the first time since Dec. 26. They moved one-half game ahead of the Brooklyn Nets into sixth place in the Eastern Conference. The Raptors (46-18) are second in the conference behind Milwaukee.

Casey is 2-0 against his former team, which fired him last May after seven seasons. This time the Pistons didn’t face star forward Kawhi Leonard, who was rested – they call it load management.

“I hate it when they do it because I think the natural human instinct is guys exhale when they don’t see a star player for the other team,” Casey said. “I don’t think it’s anything against us because (Raptors coach Nick Nurse) had done it 17 times. I think they’re doing what’s best for their player.”

The Raptors are now 13-5 without Leonard.

“It shows you how stacked they are,” Detroit’s Blake Griffin said. “They ramp up their physicality a little bit. They’re just a talented team, a well-coached team. You don’t think when Kawhi is out it’s going to be easy, you’re going to be in for a fight.”

Pistons vs. Raptors final score recap: Andre Drummond fends off foul trouble, Raptors in OT thriller – Detroit Bad Boys

Andre Drummond fought foul trouble, the tired legs that come with a back-to-back, and some early free-throw trouble to deliver a 112-107 victory over the Toronto Raptors in front of a raucous Little Caesars Arena crowd that featured plenty (too many) Raps fans.

The win puts the Pistons into the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, brings them back to .500 and sees the team playing the best ball of their season.

Even missing its star in Kawhi Leonard, the game had an intense playoff atmosphere with both sides playing quality ball with plenty of contributors.

But nobody came up bigger than Drummond — when he was able to actually see the floor. Drummond committed some stupid fouls early. After a silly foul in the first minute of second half, Drummond took a seat on the bench with four fouls.

Thon Maker quickly amasssed five of his own and Zaza Pachulia got himself a double technical after getting mauled down low and not getting a call. Suddenly, the Pistons were without much of a big man rotation and Drummond had zero margin for error.

Drummond aced the test, finishing the night +27 on a night when his fellow starters ranged from a -5 to a +1. Dre finished with 15 points, 17 rebounds, two steals and a block.

Detroit Pistons rally past Raptors, grab 6th seed in East – Detroit Free Press

The Pistons finished the game with five straight stops. They have now won 10 of 13 and are 5-1 since the NBA All-Star break.

Drummond, who battled foul trouble the entire game, scored 15 points, grabbed 17 rebounds, had two steals and a blocked shot in 28 minutes. The Pistons outscored the Raptors by 27 in Drummond’s minutes.

Griffin scored 27 points and added seven rebounds, but did have five turnovers.

Jackson scored 19 points and added four assists.

Luke Kennard scored 19 points and was 5-for-9 from 3-point range, one day after scoring 26 points on 6-for-7 shooting from deep in a blowout victory at Cleveland.

Lowry led the Raptors (46-18) with 35 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Pascal Siakam added 21 points.

The Raptors forced overtime when OG Anunoby tapped in a missed shot, tying the game at 100 with 25.6 seconds left.

Detroit Pistons escape nail-biting victory in overtime versus Raptors – Piston Powered

The Detroit Pistons came into tonight’s game energized and looking for a win after a dominating victory Saturday against the Cleveland Cavaliers. They looked to get back to the .500 mark and make a push for the 6th seed.

The Toronto Raptors on the other hand, were without their superstar forward Kawhi Leonard; who was out due to “load management.” They were looking to get a revenge win against the Pistons after losing earlier this season due to a Reggie Bullock game winner.

Recap: Raptors slip up in OT to the Pistons, 112-107 – Raptors HQ

If nothing else, this game was an exciting preview of a potential Highway 401 playoff series. Drummond spent most of the game in foul trouble, but showed how tough he can be to handle down the stretch, while Griffin was a problem all night. Luke Kennard and Wayne Ellington showed why Detroit led the league in three-point percentage in February, but a Reggie Jackson-Ish Smith point guard rotation isn’t scaring anyone in the playoffs.

On the Toronto side, this felt more like a trap loss than anything concerning. With Kawhi sitting out, the Raptors offensive deficiencies were exposed, and with Gasol playing with the starting lineup the bench proved once again to be a problem. Jeremy Lin really struggled starting in Kawhi’s place, going 0-of-8 with 1 point, 1 rebound, 1 assist and team-worst -13. Outside of a late 3, Danny Green was also quiet, and after feasting on the boards early Serge was largely ineffective with the bench in the second half.

Between the struggles of those three and the absence of Kawhi, the burden of Toronto’s offense fell on Lowry, Siakam, and Gasol, and it simply wasn’t quite enough. Notably, this game did feature Toronto’s first extended look at an Ibaka-Gasol frontcourt in the first half, with mixed results. (Though strangely, they played against a bench unit of Thon Maker and Pachulia rather than Drummond and Griffin.) After the loss, the Raptors will return home to face Houston on Tuesday.

Raptors lose in Detroit but keep things exciting | Toronto Sun

“Well, they hit one corner three and then everything else was (free throws). I guess that’s it,” Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said, alluding to a really poorly officiated game that had both teams at times livid with the inconsistency of calls.

“I guess we didn’t do a good enough job of defending without fouling,” Nurse said. “I thought we took it to the basket strong. Kyle had one. Pascal took one and had a (chance at a) dunk. Marc (Gasol) had another chance as well. I don’t know. It was a good game. It was going to go, either way. We had our chance and we didn’t take it. Then they had their chance.”

Nurse was trying to be careful not to criticize officials and toed that line rather precariously.

“I just thought it was strange,” Nurse said. “We were up guarding and all of a sudden the whistle would blow. Nothing was even happening up there. Pivot and boom. There’s not much you can do. I guess you just try to play through that stuff.”

The Pistons, at the beginning of the day represented Toronto’s first-round opponent if the schedule were suddenly ripped up on this day.

As it turns out, the Detroit win wound up pushing the Pistons into sixth place and dropped Brooklyn to seventh, thereby putting the Nets in that playoff partner circle for the time being for Toronto.

Of course, that’s weeks down the road.

“I think we’re still a long ways away from being in the playoff mode,” Gasol said. “We’re still trying things and feeling out some things offensively and defensively that can work for us. At this point, we’re not thinking about other teams. We’re working on our own stuff and seeing what combinations of guys, schemes, plays work, We’re not at that (playoff) point yet.”

Overshadowed by the result were some rather impressive individual performances from both Lowry and Anunoby in particular. Lowry took his game to another level in this one with a season-best 35 points, 25 of those in the second half. Anunoby had his Siakam-sneakers on for this one as he was all over the court. Despite coming off the bench, he played almost 35 minutes and had 13 points, six rebounds and a block.

Thoughts on the Raptors, their fans and more –

ClOSE RAPTORS GAMES: All these tight and close games that Toronto is playing in are good preparation for the playoffs. Coach Nick Nurse gets to get a sense of what he likes and doesn’t like when it comes to late-game execution on both sides of the ball, both on an individual and team level. Know thyself! These teaching opportunities provide great opportunities for growth and late-game clarity. You’re not going to succeed all the time or win each game, but the perspective you gain helps you later.

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