The Toronto Raptors will play host to the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday evening, hoping to keep their perfect home record alive against an injured Pistons squad that is without Reggie Jackson and Blake Griffin. It won’t be easy, though, as former Raptors coach Dwane Casey is a perfect 3-0 against the Raptors since joining the Pistons two seasons ago. Still, the Raptors are heavy favourites to win and keep the good start rolling.
Let’s look into the most interesting storylines ahead of Pistons vs. Raptors:
I’ll start with this: No one on the Pistons can really guard Pascal Siakam.
He has been on an absolute tear to start his first season as the Raptors No. 1 option, averaging 28/10/4 on 48/43/96 shooting through four games, taking pull up jumpers and finding the open man like he has been a No. 1 option on an NBA team for years. The question is: Is it sustainable?
Siakam probably isn’t going to shoot 43 percent from three or 96 from the stripe all season, but can he continue to put up huge numbers with efficient shooting? Can he be a good No. 1 option in the NBA? Ultimately, that is the question, and we can’t definitively say yes after just four games. But it looks pretty promising, as Siakam has stepped up each time the Raptors have asked him to. What better time to have a breakthrough performance than the injured Pistons?
Continuity is key
The Raptors have looked real good aside from a lacklustre second half against Boston. The team is 3-1, and if you compare their offence to other teams around the league this season, it’s clear the Raptors have an edge.
That isn’t to say this is the best the Raptors can be; far from it. But the first seven guys in their rotation have all been with the Raptors for years and, aside from OG Anunoby who missed most of last season, all played big minutes in the Raptors run to a championship. The Raptors know how to play together and have a system they can rely on. They have been able to generate good ball movement and create tons of open threes, much like last season. It’s good news for the Raptors and the league, proving that continuity is important, and it might just help them get a head start towards home-court advantage in the playoffs.
The Raptors defence has been pretty good to start the season, with a defensive rating of 97.1 that ranks fourth in the NBA. Still, they haven’t played any elite offensive teams and it could be a lot better.
One area of concern has been rebounding: The Raptors defensive rebounding percentage of 75.6 ranks 23rd in the NBA, and they are going up against Andre Drummond, one of the best rebounders in the league. It’s not sustainable to play Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol together too much, so the frontcourt of Anunoby, Siakam, and either Ibaka or Gasol needs to be better on the boards. Kawhi Leonard made up for a lot of mistakes on the defensive end last season, but the Raptors no longer have the luxury of having a do-it-all-best-player-in-the-league-guy. They have to do it by committee this year, and that starts with cleaning up the boards.
You would think that a team with Kyle Lowry and Steady Freddy (VanVleet) would take care of the basketball, but that hasn’t been the case early on. The Raptors have turned it over a whopping 17.1 times per game this season, 28th in the NBA. The thing is, it hasn’t been the point guards’ faults at all.
Lowry and VanVleet are averaging just three turnovers per game each (and more than six assists each), while the real culprits have been Siakam (four turnovers), Norman Powell (2.5) and Serge Ibaka (2.8). Siakam should get better at taking care of the ball. After all, this is just his first season as the No. 1 option in an NBA offence and he has been taking guys off the dribble and initiating sets much more this season. It makes sense that he should have a learning curve to start the season. Powell and Ibaka, on the other hand, have played in this system for years and know what is expected of them. They both need to take better care of the ball and stop trying to do too much (I’m talking about you, Norm!).
Tipoff: 7:30pm EST | TV: TSN | Radio: TSN 1050
PG: Kyle Lowry, Patrick McCaw, Terence Davis
SG: Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell, Matt Thomas
SF: OG Anunoby, Stanley Johnson, Malcolm Miller
PF: Pascal Siakam, Chris Boucher, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
C: Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Dewan Hernandez
PG: Derrick Rose, Tim Frazier, Langston Galloway