Two things have changed since the Toronto Raptors banged on the Detroit Pistons. Josh Smith was released, and the Pistons started winning games. They have won 8 out of their last 10 against some high quality teams, and tonight should be quite the tilt in Toronto. Because of their recent stretch of wins, they are currently three games out of the 8th spot. Meaning, this is a possible play-off match-up in April.
Both teams are coming off wins Saturday night, with the Raptors bouncing back after a mediocre road trip, and the Pistons surging back after a tough loss to the scorching Atlanta Hawks the previous night.
This will be the 21st game the Raptors are without DeMar DeRozan in the line-up, but thanks to the recent line-up change by Dwane Casey, James Johnson has brought a sense or urgency and fight needed on the 1st group; something not seen in the past four game losing streak.
The last meeting between the two, the Raptors blew out the Pistons on their home-court, including an altercation between James Johnson and Andre Drummond, after Johnson stuck Drummond on a poster. Drummond retaliated with an elbow as Johnson drove to the rim, knocking him down against his forward momentum. Expect some feisty play tonight, including a possible technical or two.
Cage’s Keys To The Game
Come out with a sense of urgency
The Raptors have started the last five games with poor energy; it’s time to change that. This is a surging team that has a mindset that they can beat anybody right now. To prove that they’re a top team in the league, and to continue to drip towards the winning side again, the Raptors must come out with the same defensive intensity that got them to being one of the top teams in the league. Make Detroit work for everything tonight, and that’ll start with being prepared for a grind-it-out game.
Find Jonas Valanciunas
When JV gets touches, he is typically a significant factor. With Drummond and Greg Monroe on the inside, attacking them defensively by putting the ball inside will in turn wear out the Detroit bigs. Again, this game is about making Detroit work for everything, because when their rhythm is disturbed, they start to look a lot like their record.
Find a way
Detroit has a ton of individual talent in guys like Drummond, Monroe, and Brandon Jennings. These guys are talented enough to single-handedly put their team through a solid run to either build a lead, or break one down. It’s important for the Raptors to show their strong mental mindset, by being able to weather the storm with composure, and a find a way to make a play. A stop, a score, a dunk, a charge; whatever it may be, find a way to fight through adversity throughout the game.
X-Factor: Kyle Lowry
He will be the best player on the court tonight by a long shot. If Lowry dominates the game tonight, even with minimal help, he should give the Raptors a very good chance to win. However, if Lowry continues to show signs of fatigue and the rest of the team plays like they have been in the recent stretch, the Raps could be in trouble.