Here are 10 takeaways from the Toronto Raptors’ 105-92 win over the Detroit Pistons.
One — Celebratory: It must be so embarrassing for Pistons fans when the Raptors are in town. Not only is it almost a guaranteed loss, but seeing an invasion in your own arena is disheartening — especially since the building wouldn’t be full without them. As per usual, the Raptors stormed into town, took everything they wanted and threw a huge party for fans across southern Ontario who pilled in by the busload.
Two — Separation: Give the Pistons credit for sticking around in a game they had no business being in. Detroit shaved the lead to six at the end of the third quarter and were in striking distance of the upset. But instead, the Raptors responded with a 21-5 run to crush any flickering hopes of a comeback and the game was decided. What’s worse is that the Raptors’ second unit did most of that damage against the Pistons’ starters, who returned to the game early in the fourth but failed to regain control.
Three — Command: Fred VanVleet seems to have a presence about him where he just always delivers the big shot. After the Pistons cut the deficit to single digits with a strong spell of defence that held Toronto without a basket for three minutes, it was VanVleet who sparked life with a pull-up 3 to end the third quarter. He followed that up with a driving layup, and found Chris Boucher, Norman Powell and Pascal Siakam for layups, while also hitting a circus shot of his own. All in all this was one of VanVleet’s most well-rounded performances on the year, as he flirted with a triple-double with 16 points, eight rebounds and nine assists in the win.
Four — Dominant: Siakam takes particular joy in tormenting the Pistons. His aggressiveness was back to pre-injury levels, as Siakam took every opportunity to attack whichever helpless defender assigned to the challenge. For some strange reason, Dwane Casey opted to guard Siakam in single coverage and that will not work against an All-Star starter. Casey cycled through Thon Maker, Markieff Morris, Tony Snell and Christian Wood against Siakam, but none of them were up to the task. Siakam found his stride early, nailed back-to-back pull-up 3s, and finished strong with six layups in the fourth.
Five — Lively: Credit Boucher for his all-out activity. Most players were conservative on the second night of a back-to-back except for Boucher, who only knows how to play at top gear. Boucher’s rim protection forced misses out of Andre Drummond and persuaded Derrick Rose into changing his shot. Meanwhile on offence, Boucher was fearless in the pick-and-roll as he tried to finish strong each time he ventured into the paint. The Raptors need to find Boucher more minutes when everyone is healthy.
Six — Swarming: The Pistons only scored 28 points in the paint and had just 14 heading into the fourth quarter. That’s not only embarrassing for the Pistons, but it’s also a testament to Toronto’s interior defence holding strong even in the absence of Marc Gasol. Boucher and Serge Ibaka led the charge by challenging every shot, but they also got plenty of help from Siakam and Powell who also stood their ground. When the Raptors’ defence is at their best, it can feel as if they have six defenders on the floor, because somehow the Pistons faced a double team no matter which way they turned.
Seven — Orchestrated: It was also an impressive display of passing by the Raptors, who exploited the utter lack of awareness on the parts of the Pistons defenders. Kyle Lowry split the entire defence to find VanVleet on a cut in the first quarter. Ibaka threw a Gasol-esque leading pass to find Powell streaking in for a dunk. Siakam had two gorgeous dimes in the post to Powell and Terence Davis creeping backdoor.
Eight — Tradition: No win against the Pistons is complete without someone dunking on Drummond. Tonight, it was Powell and Boucher who joined the ranks of James Johnson, Jonas Valanciunas, Jakob Poeltl, and OG Anunoby. Drummond even got banged on by Raptors president Masai Ujiri, who famously told Valanciunas during a published episode of Open Gym that he was “way better than Drummond.” Given this history, would you put any stock into the Raptors reportedly trading for Drummond? Didn’t think so.
Cocked that joint back & banged on 'em pic.twitter.com/jPftrReJBD— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) February 1, 2020
Nine — Deserved: With the win, the Raptors have officially sent Nurse and his coaching staff to All-Star Weekend along with Siakam and Lowry. Nurse’s accomplishments in his two years as head coach have been nothing short of staggering. First, he married a dicey situation with an enigma in Kawhi Leonard and a distant Lowry, and made that work. Over that stretch he got Ibaka to change positions and to agree to coming off the bench. He coaxed a Most Improved campaign out of Siakam, who continues to improve by the game. He worked Gasol into the mix on the fly. Then after winning the championship, he loses two starters — including the Finals MVP — and still has the Raptors in the second seed on pace to meet last year’s 58-win pace. He made zone defences popular again and pulled out a box-and-one in the Finals. His career win percentage of 71 percent ranks second only to Steve Kerr for tops in NBA history.
Ten — Disheveled: Just as fate would have it, it was Casey on the other side watching his former assistant reach this accomplishment and that has to sting. Casey is now stuck in a treadmill situation in Detroit, where Blake Griffin is out and Drummond doesn’t seem to care. Each time the camera panned to Casey during the broadcast, he wore a sullen look to go along with his old-school suit — with the exception of one point in the fourth quarter where Casey was on his feet as he usually does, barking out orders and sliding his feet to command the defence. Except, that was sad too, as the Pistons were down 20 in a game they were clearly losing.
More coverage on Yahoo Sports