If you look at the last 30 days, no other team in the Eastern Conference has been more effective or efficient offensively than the Toronto Raptors. And that’s doesn’t sound too good for the Detroit Pistons, who are having problems finding their offensive, and have shown that defensively they have many holes to fill. The memory of just how well the Raptors play is fresh from just last weekend when they beat them on their home court.
As the Raptors head out on a road trip Monday night to face Detroit at home, the extra time between the games will benefit the Raptors, who are going for their 14th win in 15 games, as they try their luck in Motown.
Last Saturday’s 111-107 victory over Detroit topped off the Raptors’ first perfect seven-game homestand and extended their franchise-best winning streak to 11. They rebounded quickly when their six-game trip began with a loss to Denver last Monday, but soon after they made good work of Phoenix and Portland while away. That character the team is developing, to bounce back quick from a loss is creating a team ready and hungry to go further in the playoffs than their first round exit last year.
In Portland earlier this week, Toronto who has a record of 34-16, made 12 of 19 3-point attempts on Thursday, as they took a 110-103 victory over the Trail Blazers. All-Star Kyle Lowry drained all seven attempted to match a career high.
“Cohesion, chemistry, continuity,” said coach Dwane Casey to media on how the Raptors’ are preparing for playoff success. “We’re not a finished product; we’ve got to stay hungry, we’ve got to stay focused. But I think those have been the keys to us winning.”
Their streamlined and efficient offense has also played a big role in their recent success. If you go back to Jan. 9 and since then, the Raptors’ have averaged of 110.0 points per 100 possessions, and that record trails only Golden State, San Antonio and Oklahoma City. They’re averaging 108.0 points in their last 11 victories, and shooting 42.4 percent from the 3-point range. Those are fantastic stats.
They’ve had now three days off since they beat Portland, so the Raps should be very well rested despite being on the road. That rest will serve them wll since their offense has thrived when the team was given some extra time off. This will be the fourth time they’re playing on three days’ or more of rest, and so far they’ve averaged 109.7 points in winning the first three. That tells you everything.
Against Detroit, their nearby rival, Toronto has also regularly been in sync offensively against them, averaging 109.9 points in winning six of the last eight meetings. In last week’s match up against them, All-Star DeMar DeRozan had 29 points, and is averaging 26.0 points in his last four games. So watch for him to be a game changer.
In the same game, Lowry shot 4 of 15 against the Pistons, but since he has regained his scoring touch, and is shooting 52.9 percent overall while going 12 of 20 from 3-point range in the last two games.
Detroit has a record slightly over .500, of 27-25 and has had a lot of trouble stopping anyone over a 2-4 stretch. They have allowed an average of 107.3 points which is 6.4 points worse than their season average.
“For some reason, we’re really struggling putting together 48 minutes of defense,” Anthony Tolliver told local media after Saturday’s 112-104 loss to the Indiana Pacers. “And it came back to bite us again.”
Detroit just couldn’t overcome a huge deficit, even with Reggie Jackson getting 26 points on 10-of-15 shooting and Tolliver adding a season-high of 17. If you look at their games cloese up, both against the Pacers and the Raptors last weekend, the Pistons were able to pull within four points after trailing by 20 in the second half, but just couldn’t get out of the huge hole they dug themselves into early on in the game.
Jackson leads Detroit in scoring at 19.2 points per game and All-Star Andre Drummond is right behind him at 17.1. But both players have not had much success against Toronto. Jackson only scored 13 and Drummond finished with 10 in their last meeting.
As of today’s standings, Detroit is hanging on tooth and nail to eighth place in the Eastern conference, as it struggles to end a six-year playoff drought.
“We’re going to need to put together more than a one-game win streak,” Jackson said. ”It’s something for us to be worried about.”
The All-Star break is quickly approaching and has been cause to worry or stress out some coaches, as their players’ minds tend to drift off to the week-long break that mid-season every players craves. Yet coach Casey is confident his team will remain focused in its two games this week to get the points and go into the break on a high.
“Christmas time, All-Star time is always a dangerous time,” Casey said. “We want to be the mature team, the professional team and go in with professional approach, a mature approach and that way you can go into the All-Star break and enjoy it.”
This match up could be a playoff preview, if the Pistons can climb a few spots up to sixth in the Eastern Conference. Pistons guard Reggie Jackson has been enjoying the freedom of running an offence, and so it can be seen that in his first full season with the Pistons, his numbers are similar to Lowry’s: 19 points, 6.5 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game. This is the first time he has started every game in his five-year career, so he is healthy and strong and will be looking to be the difference. Outside of Lowry, look for DeRozan to be an impact tomorrow night, as he is getting more comfortable from three-point range and netting those key points. Even though he’s been a career 27 per cent shooter from deep, he’s 8-for-13 over the last four games, and if that streak continues, the Pistons won’t have much of a chance.