As if we needed any reminder, the Detroit Pistons still have some work to do.
One night after falling to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the top team in the Eastern Conference, the Pistons traveled East and ever-so-slightly northward to take on the Toronto Raptors, winners of 10 straight coming in and threatening Cleveland for that top spot.
The result, a 111-107 Raptors win, was in little doubt through most of the night, with the Toronto leading by as many as 20 midway through the fourth before a late Pistons run made things only vaguely interesting.
The Raptors capitalized off of a busy evening at the foul line, connecting on 35-of-47 free throws as the Pistons’ defense remained porous throughout the evening.
“It starts with not being able to contain people off the dribble,” Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy said. “But we’re just fouling too much and it’s something we haven’t done all year. Then the Denver game, last night, tonight – way too many free throw attempts. We gave a lot of fouls at the end, but still, they’re in the 30s and that’s way too many.”
The Pistons also contributed a season-low nine assists.
While Toronto’s two All-Stars, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, pieced together two top level performances (29 and 18 points, respectively), first-time All-Star Andre Drummond struggled to leave his imprint on the game, finishing with an uninspired 11-point, 12-rebound double-double that left Van Gundy wanting more.
“It has to be a focus of his,” Van Gundy said of Drummond’s work on the boards. “I think one of the things that’s happened is his focus, everybody else’s focus is gone to free-throw shooting instead of to the fact that he needs to be a dominant rebounder so I don’t think his head is where it needs to be right now.
“You’re taking the game at its whole. To overcome whatever your weaknesses are, you got to be great in certain areas. If you are going to go 1-for-9 at the free-throw line, 12 rebounds is not enough. Go 8-for-9, 12 rebounds is enough.”
After trailing 98-78 with just over six minutes remaining, the Pistons closed on a 29-13 run but never seriously threatened.
Additional Notes & Observations
- Brandon Jennings was stellar off the bench on Saturday, leading the Pistons with 22 points and keeping them afloat throughout his 22 minutes of work. He pieced together a 12-point second quarter, including a personal 9-2 run featuring two steals and a step-back triple, that helped close a 10-point gap.
- Ersan Ilyasova missed Saturday’s game with a left thigh injury. Anthony Tolliver started in his place, scoring five points in 35 minutes. While there’s no timetable on Ilyasova’s return, the injury is not considered serious.
- Despite the loss, the Pistons had seven players finish in double figures: Jennings (22), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (15), Reggie Jackson (13), Marcus Morris (13), Stanley Johnson (12), Andre Drummond (11), and Aron Baynes (11).