Well-rested Raptors will test Pistons (Feb 12, 2017)

BY AP • February 11, 2017

TORONTO -- The Toronto Raptors will have had three days off when they play the Detroit Pistons Sunday at the Air Canada Centre.

The Pistons will have had one day off after losing 103-92 to the San Antonio Spurs on Friday night at home.

The Raptors used their time off to work on some of the things they need to improve, many of them involving defense.

After losing 112-109 to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday at the Target Centre, the Raptors have dropped nine of their past 13 games and have a record of 10-12 since Jan. 1.

A busy schedule has limited practice time.

"As the games keep coming, you don't have time in practice to get your repetition," coach Dwane Casey said. "All the things we've been having trouble with (on defense), those are habits. You need practice to rekindle those habits. That's kind of where we are. Our guys did a good job (Thursday). Upbeat, positive. Those are the kinds of things we need now, is to rekindle those habits. You lose those kinds of things as the season goes on and you don't have that kind of practice."

The Raptors (32-22) had a day off from practice on Friday and then worked hard on Saturday.

DeMar DeRozan mentioned what the team needed to work on. "Not letting guys cut to where they want to cut," he said. "Forcing the post-ups out, pick-and-roll defense, getting into the body, a lot of different things."

Rest is another part of the three-day break.

"I played 36 (minutes), DeMar played 37 (minutes)," Kyle Lowry said after the loss on Wednesday. "That's a lot of minutes for guys and a lot of travel. Right now, I think rest is our best friend."

The Pistons (25-29) had their four-game home winning streak ended by the Spurs on Friday. They are 4-2 for the month.

"It's been a year where there's a lot of mediocre teams (in the Eastern Conference)," Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. "Miami is very quickly climbing out of that, though. They're not a mediocre team. You've got to look at them almost as a sure-fire playoff team. And it's starting to get down to where there's not a lot of spots left. So you're going to have to start playing well.

"Right now, our shot distribution is not really conducive to being a great offensive team. We're trying to change that. We're trying to get more cutting, more ball movement to open stuff at the rim and we're really encouraging -- especially our three forwards that play a lot -- to quit passing up open looks at the 3. About the only guy we've got that's a volume 3-point shooter is (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope). We need a little bit more with that."

The difference on Friday was a six-minute span in the second quarter. The Pistons were behind by six points but were down by 19 to the Spurs at the end of the first half.

"I just told them in there that's when I thought the game was decided," Van Gundy said. "If we take the other 42 minutes of the game, they probably still outplayed us, but we hung in there pretty good other than that, but those six minutes decided the game.

"It was controllable to some degree from our side. Had we just hung with it mentally and not given to the frustration and doing what we were supposed to do, we could have hung in the game, but we didn't and we didn't."

Pistons center/forward Aron Baynes went to the locker room after falling awkwardly and twisting his right ankle with 9:02 left in the first half on Friday. He returned before the intermission and was not expected to miss any time.

Rookies Henry Ellenson and Michael Gbinije were scheduled to join the Pistons Saturday after completing two-game stints with the Grand Rapids Drive of the NBA Development League. Ellenson, the Pistons' first-round draft pick in 2016, had a double-double --15 points and 11 rebounds -- and Gbinije scored 15 points in the Drive's 105-102 win Friday over Erie.



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