The Detroit Pistons were coming to the Air Canada Centre desperate for something, anything to build off of. The surging Toronto Raptors wouldn’t allow it.
As has been a trend in this now 6-game losing streak, the second half play was putrid. The Pistons led 54-50 at halftime behind eight assists from Brandon Jennings and 13 points from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. The Pistons held the Raptors under 25% shooting in the second quarter and were moving the ball from side to side and getting easy looks.
The third quarter was when it all changed. The Raptors opened up the third on an 8-0 run. Terrence Ross hit two triples and DeMar DeRozan had a layup to give the Raptors a 58-54 lead. The Pistons offense bogged down as both player movement and ball movement stopped. The Pistons started relying on foul calls from the referees.
Josh Smith drove to the rim, missed, and yelled at the ref looking for a foul. Smith was T’d up and DeRozan, who was fouled by Andre Drummond, stepped to the line and hit all three free throws to give Toronto a 77-66 lead.
Rodney Stuckey, playing after missing three games with a shoulder injury, converted an And-1 to bring the Pistons to within 79-71 with 1:43 left in the third, but that was as close as Detroit would get the rest of the way. Toronto’s Kyle Lowry immediately answered with a triple and the Raptors led by 10 after three.
In the fourth, the Raptors kept pouring it on as big men Jonas Valanciunas and former Piston Amir Johnson made a mockery of Drummond, Greg Monroe, and Charlie Villanueva. The Raptors went on to win 112-91. With the Brooklyn Nets win over the Golden State Warriors, the Pistons now fall to 9th in the east after holding on to the 8 seed.
First things first, the first half was terrific. The ball movement was great, the defense was stifling, and the energy was there. They held DeRozan to 2 points on 0/9 shooting in the first half and held Johnson scoreless.
The second half was the total opposite. They played hero ball, the ball movement stopped, the defense wasn’t there, and the effort wasn’t there. Jennings only had one assist after the eight he had in the first half and Caldwell-Pope went scoreless in the second half. I really don’t know why these 2nd halves have been so bad, but that’s on the coaching. Obviously Maurice Cheeks isn’t motivating these guys enough to play hard for the second 24 minutes.
Also, the jumbo front line isn’t working. Smith is out of position playing the small forward, he’s a power forward and that’s where he’s most effective. Give Joe Dumars credit for trying it, but the experiment isn’t working.
My suggestion is trade Monroe. Why? Because he has an opportunity to walk this offseason. He has the most trade value. Nobody will want Smith with that contract and Drummond is untouchable. If Dumars wants to make a move, he will have to move Monroe. He would bring the most value back.
Side note, why is Charlie Villanueva receiving playing time?
There’s still time to save this season. There’s still 46 games left and this is the Eastern Conference, where 36 wins could get you into the playoffs. This team has the talent. A lot more than previous seasons, but it has to happen now.