A little over a month ago, a Toronto Raptors 114-111 loss to the 14-24 Detroit Pistons at home would have been nothing short of an embarrassment. But these aren’t last month’s Pistons. After making Josh Smith disappear, they have now won 9 of 10, and certainly not against cupcake competition. In their surge they knocked off both the Spurs and Mavericks on the road and were barely edged out by the East leading Hawks. The Pistons we’re carried by an electric performance by Brandon Jennings. The 6th year guard has really come into his own after the departure of the aforementioned Smith and tonight would be no different. He poured in 34 points and 10 helpers on an even 50% from the field. It would ultimately be a double by the Raptors defence that would lead to an ocean-like open look for Jodie Meeks to deliver the dagger.
The Raptors became the latest victim, falling to 25-12 on the season. The team tonight for many stretches, particularly in the 3rd frame looked like the wounded team they are. Despite a career night for Jonas Valanciunas who put up 31 points and 12 boards while shooting an outrageous 14/15 from the field, the team just could not rally around the big man in the middle. It was an uncharacteristically pedestrian night for Kyle Lowry (#NBABallot) who didn’t put up his first points until the 4th. The Baby Faced Assassin is clearly labouring out there without DeMar Derozan shouldering some of the offensive burden. Lowry went 3-12 from the floor and had little lift on the potential go-ahead layup. Let’s break it down.
On the surface, it looked like a decent offensive showing. Jonas Valanciunas had the game of his life. The team collectively shot 54% with 7 players putting up double figures. Such stats would suggest an easy win for this Raptors squad. The team was buried by their uncharacteristically charitable spirit, giving the ball away a whopping 19 times, almost doubling their season average. Turnovers have started to spike as the team continues to struggle through their schedule without their All Star swingman. On a normal night, the team’s mistakes and shortcomings would be disguised by a gladiator type effort by Kyle Lowry. Tonight was not a normal night for the MVP candidate.
Just like the offence, the numbers alone would indicate that the Raptors had an alright showing. They held the Pistons to only 43% shooting. Andre Drummond was held to only 3-12 shooting and despite his rebounding was relatively quiet. The difference lied in the 22 points the Raptors allowed in transition off of turnovers.
In a game against the Pistons, one would think that rebounding would be the team’s achilles heal, but that simply wasn’t the case. While the Raptors did get out rebounded 46-40 and 17-10 on the offensive glass, the Raptors were solid at protecting their own glass with a 32 defensive boards. Not great, but certainly not the reason they lost.
Game Ball: Brandon Jennings
The Raptors homer in me would love to hand Valanciunas the orange honour, but Brandon Jennings has been the engine behind the Pistons (pun intended) in the past 10 games including tonight. Jennings is slowly shedding the label as a selfish chucker and is proving that he and his Piston teammates are a now a legitimate threat in the East. As for Jennings’ childhood friend DeMar Derozan, the Raptors need him. Now.