Tonight at 7:30pm EST the Pistons will be across the border to play against the Toronto Raptors. The Pistons are on one day of rest after losing to the Hornets on Monday, as are the Raptors after losing to the Sixers.
The Raptors are really good, and the fact that people continue to sleep on them (in the regular season at least) is absurd. They have won more games than any other team in the East over the last several years and there was never any reason to think they would slow down much this year. They sport the 3rd best offense in the NBA at 110.6 points per 100 possessions and the 5th best defense at 103.3 points allowed per 100 possessions.
DeMar DeRozan is scoring 25.4 points per game, has started to shoot threes, and is generally remarkably good. Kyle Lowry is still probably the best point guard in the Eastern conference even though his volume numbers have declined a bit this year, but he plays both ends of the court, bombs threes off the dribble as well as anyone not named “Curry” and is a good passer.
Even though the Raptors remain a two star team first and foremost, they are so good because they have really good complimentary players to go with those two stars. Serge Ibaka is never going to end up being as good as some people thought he was going to be, but he can shoot, plays defense, and generally is a really good complimentary big man. OG Anunoby looks like a bonafide steal out of the last draft as a three and D guy, Jonas Valanciunas doesn't really defense so good but he can play offense and has always destroyed Andre Drummond. Delon Wright can shoot and is a good athlete, Pascal Siakam is a bouncy big guy who plays hard, C.J. Miles is a shameless three point chucker, Jakob “The Turtle” Poeltl does all of your basic big guy things and does them pretty well, Norman Powell is a good athlete although he has struggled with his shot this year. Fred VanVleet has been a really good player at point guard this year but he got hurt in the last game and his status is unknown.
This team is really good, DeRozan and Lowry are awesome and they have a bunch of other guys who can just play and they have a lot of continuity and comfort with each other. Who knows if they will put together a real playoff run or not but as far as winning games in the regular season goes, this team is very good.
Matchups to watch:
Drummond vs. JV: Valanciunas has consistently killed Drummond in the past and it still makes absolutely no sense. Drummond had a good game against Brook Lopez who has been another bizarre thorn in his side in the past so maybe he will beat this demon too. It is also important that Drummond bounce back from a terrible game against the Hornets.
Pistons vs. Playing defense: The Pistons must have good defensive effort and disposition from start to finish. They are not going to generate offense to win a shootout very often. They cannot be even a little bit lazy.
Avery Bradley vs. Not shooting so freaking much: Since returning from injury Avery Bradley has taken 119 shots from the field. Second place over those 7 games is Tobias Harris with 99. (If you throw in free throws then Harris isn't as far behind FWIW) Avery Bradley needs to not shoot so much.
Pistons offense vs. Reconfiguring: Lets keep going with this, guess who is 3rd over those 7 games? Ish Smith at 76. Guess who is 4th? Dwight Buycks with 67. So over the last 7 games the Pistons 1st and 3rd shot takers combine to have a true shooting percentage just under 50%. Lets not do that anymore.
Pistons vs. DeRozan: DeRozan is trouble. Avery Bradley is probably going to have problems with the size difference, but unless Stanley Johnson plays there isn't really a good option for him. It will likely be a team effort to try and contain him.
So in conclusion...
Wink knowingly at your friends if:
Drummond bounces back from a terrible game with a great one.
Someone other than Avery Bradley or Ish Smith leads the Pistons in shot attempts.
The Pistons play with a high defensive intensity the entire night.
Run for the hills if:
Avery Bradley is farting up long twos off the dribble. Juicy farts. Like “Do you need a tissue” farts.
DeRozan is slaughtering the Pistons and they have no answer for him.
Drummond will forever get destroyed by Valanciunas.
Opportunities for me to look stupid:
Drummond bounces back with a big game.
Tobias Harris and Serge Ibaka score many points.
The Pistons bench has a big game.
The Pistons win a nail biter with Tobias Harris scoring the game winning bucket.
Pistons 103 – Raptors 101.
What do you think? Can Drummond outplay JV? Can the Pistons bounce back?