With Raptors in town, Pistons must turn up their defense
Over the past month, no Eastern Conference team has been more efficient offensively than the Toronto Raptors.
That doesn’t bode well for the Detroit Pistons, who are struggling mightily defensively and were burned by the Raptors just last weekend.
Extra time between contests should also benefit the Raptors, who go for a 14th win in 15 games as they resume their road trip Monday night against the Pistons (7 p.m. pregame, 7:30 tipoff on FOX Sports Detroit).
A 111-107 victory over Detroit last Saturday capped the Raptors’ first perfect seven-game homestand and extended their franchise-best winning streak to 11. Their six-game trip began with a loss to Denver last Monday, but they’ve rebounded with wins over Phoenix and Portland.
Toronto (34-16) made 12 of 19 3-point attempts in Thursday’s 110-103 victory over the Trail Blazers, with All-Star Kyle Lowry draining seven of them to match a career high.
"Cohesion, chemistry, continuity," coach Dwane Casey said of the Raptors’ recipe for 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."
An efficient offense has also played a big role.
Since Jan. 9, the Raptors’ average of 110.0 points per 100 possessions trails only Golden State, San Antonio and Oklahoma City. They’re averaging 108.0 points in their last 11 victories, shooting 42.4 percent from 3-point range.
With three days off since beating Portland, the Raptors should be well rested, and their offense, again, thrives when given extra time off. This will be the fourth time they’re playing on three days’ or more of rest, and they’ve averaged 109.7 points in winning the first three.
Toronto has also regularly been in sync offensively against Detroit, averaging 109.9 points in winning six of the last eight meetings. All-Star DeMar DeRozan had 29 points in last weekend’s matchup and is averaging 26.0 points in his last four games.
Lowry shot 4 of 15 against the Pistons but has regained his touch, shooting 52.9 percent overall while going 12 of 20 from 3-point range in the last two.
Detroit (27-25) has had trouble stopping anyone over a 2-4 stretch, allowing an average of 107.3 points – 6.4 worse than its season average.
"For some reason, we’re really struggling putting together 48 minutes of defense," Anthony Tolliver told the team’s official website after Saturday’s 112-104 loss at Indiana. "And it came back to bite us again."
Reggie Jackson had 26 points on 10-of-15 shooting and Tolliver added a season-high 17, but Detroit once again couldn’t overcome a huge deficit. Both against the Pacers and the Raptors last weekend, the Pistons pulled within four points after trailing by 20 in the second half.
Jackson leads Detroit in scoring at 19.2 points per game and All-Star Andre Drummond isn’t far behind at 17.1, but neither had much success against Toronto — Jackson scored 13 and Drummond finished with 10.
Detroit is clinging to eighth place in the East as it tried 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 quickly approaching All-Star break can be a worry to some coaches, as players’ minds may drift to the week-long break, but Casey is confident his team will remain focused in its two games this week.
"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."