Raptors Recap – The High 5 – TOR 107 @ DET 110

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The High 5 is where I give my reaction to the night’s games. This includes a look at the players who made a difference in the outcome, some additional notes and unique details that caught my attention.

The Thumb (The Story of the Game)

The Toronto Raptors raided the Little Caesars arena once again to face the pesky Detroit Pistons. Toronto is obviously the superior team in this matchup, but the Pistons have been stealing wins and have become a thorn in Nick Nurses’ side all season. Toronto is still trying to answer some rotation questions while the Pistons have been playing better as of late and have been gaining in confidence with every win. At this point, Detroit would welcome a first-round matchup with Toronto as they seem to have their number, but Coach Casey has pushed his team to the 6 seed, so a playoff meeting looks unlikely. The Raptors were once again without their leader, as Kyle Lowry sat for the second game in a row, but they got an unexpected boost from the returning Fred VanVleet. The Pistons rode their smothering defense to maintain a lead over the Raptors going into the half. Toronto came out of the locker room with a better effort and quickly got back into the game. Detroit bent, but did not break and got just enough offense from Blake and company to earn another win against the Raptors. Along with being swept in the season series, the other major concern coming out of this game was how much Toronto’s play dropped when Nurse called upon the bench. Fred should help stabilize the second unit, but it’s something to watch as the season nears its end. With only a handful of games left, Toronto will need to work out these issues quickly or else they may be in danger of a disappointing playoff run.

Detroit 110 Toronto 107.

The Index (The Leader)

Photo Courtesy: Raj Mehta/USA TODAY – Sports

Coach Casey threw out double teams early and often to stifle any Kawhi momentum and to take him out of a rhythm. Kawhi had little to no space on the catch but after the half, he was able to adjust and proceeded to dissect the Pistons defense to the tune of 33 points. Aside from leading the Raptors in scoring, he also grabbed 10 rebounds for the double-double to go with 2 assists, a steal and a block. He filled the basket quickly and proficiently through a mixed bag of offensive moves and shots. Kawhi was poised and calm coming up with timely plays throughout the game but even his greatness wasn’t enough to earn a win.

The Middle (The Enemy)

Photo Courtesy: Raj Mehta/USA TODAY Sports

Ish Smith used his blinding speed, bravado and swagger to keep the Raptors off balance all night. He may not have an impressive stat line, but that’s because the damage he did was against Toronto’s confidence. He was blowing by Toronto’s guards which forced the help defense to rotate over. At that point, Ish used his quickness to get around secondary defenders or to kick it out to open shooters and cutters. He was oozing confidence throughout the game and played much larger than his relatively small size. Ish scored 8 points to go with 8 assists, 5 rebounds, and 3 steals. Great game from the scrappy guard.

The Ring (The X-Factor)

Raptor fans everywhere gave a collective sigh of relief when they saw Fred VanVleet enter the game. Even though he has been out of the line up for the last few weeks he looked like he didn’t miss a beat. Fred showed excellent conditioning, a credit to the work he and Coach Phil Handy have been doing while he was on the mend. His shot was crisp, his first step was explosive, and he acted as another much-needed floor spacer. Coach Nurse was so happy to see his point guard back that he promptly gave him the start in the second half over the struggling Jeremy Lin. VanVleet scored 17 points including 4 threes, 4 assists and 1 rebound. Fred was excellent in the loss. He was the reason the Raptors had any chance in this game.

The Pinky (The Unsung Hero)

Marc Gasol continued his unselfish play to nearly earn a triple-double tonight. He was a steadying presence in the paint as he had to bring a strong effort against the imposing Andre Drummond. Gasol was his usual crafty self but only took 7 shots (hitting 3) in 37 minutes. He also grabbed a team high 11 rebounds and dished out 8 assists to go with a block. Although Gasol is a magnificent facilitator, it would behoove the Raptors to find ways to get the big man easy looks. The Raptors have yet to figure out how to take full advantage of Gasol’s arsenal.

Player of the Game

Photo Courtesy: Raj Mehta/USA TODAY Sports

Tonight’s player(s) of the game goes to Detroit’s two headed monster Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond. Its rare to have a team that can effectively work a two big system in today’s up-tempo game. They are fantastic compliments for each other, where Blake can score with varied efficiency, Andre ensures that loose balls are gobbled up while also serving as Detroit’s last line of defense. Blake took 21 shots to lead Detroit with 25 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists. Andre Drummond responded with 15 points of his own and he also dominated the glass with an impressive 17 rebounds to go with 2 steals and an assist. These two are a definite matchup problem for Toronto and I am sure the Raptors will be pleased if they did not have to play them again this year.

 Game Notes:

  • Home away from home – The Toronto Raptors faithful were vocal and supportive in the Motor City. It’s too bad Toronto was not able to reward their die-hard fans with a win.
  • Jet Black – Last time we saw Coach Casey he had the salt and pepper look but tonight his hair was as dark as a shadow. He has seemingly “de-aged” in his time in Detroit.
  • Live by the 3? – This was one of the rare games that the Raptors shot a good percentage from deep and still came away with the loss. They hit 18 three’s compared to Detroit’s 8.

 

It’s a quick turn around for Toronto as they welcome the rebuilding New York Knicks to the Scotiabank Centre on Monday night. This is a great opportunity for the Raptors to get back to their winning ways.

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