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Here are 10 takeaways from the Toronto Raptors' 129-105 loss to the Detroit Pistons.
One — Yikes: The Raptors were not prepared to play this game, which is understandable with at least a dozen members of the organization in COVID-19 protocol. But to be outplayed to this extent by the Detroit Pistons, who were also without several starters, is unacceptable. The Pistons don't even have the likes of Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, and OG Anunoby to miss in the first place, so there really isn't an excuse to not at least compete. This is the worst defensive effort by the Raptors stretching back a decade, and that's not even hyperbole.
Two — Flat: The Pistons scored 43 points in the first quarter, making 16 field goals and every single basket was assisted. The Raptors actually took a 10-3 lead to start which prompted a quick timeout from Dwane Casey, and the Pistons were nowhere to be seen from that point onward. It was the 73-win Golden State Warriors the rest of the way, with Wayne Ellington playing the role of Stephen Curry, and Svi Mykhailiuk as Klay Thompson, and Mason Plumlee as a more bruising version of Draymond Green. The Raptors, meanwhile, looked like the Pistons.
Three — Mistakes: The Raptors should submit tape of this game to the Basketball Hall of Fame because every coach at every level should show this game as an example of what not to do on defense. Name any mistake, and the Raptors made it. Leaving shooters wide open? Yes. Two players rotating to the same man without communicating? Yes. Giving up open driving lanes for no reason whatsoever? Yes. Doubling the post against a pass-first, score-never center? Yes. Failing to box out and giving up four offensive rebounds on the same play?
Yes. Not giving any effort to defend in transition? Yes. Reaching in at half court when your team is in the bonus? Yes, again. Even high school players would be scolded for the mistakes that the Raptors made, and at no point did they even come close to stringing together three competent possessions.
Four — Worst: The worst offender on the night was Terence Davis, who turned a rare opportunity to start into a showcase as to why he's normally benched. Davis was a trainwreck on both ends. Offensively, he forced contested shots that were either bricked jumpers, or wild drives that left him on the floor and unable to get back. Defensively, he kept losing Ellington in rotation and was just straight-up guessing on his rotations, which left his teammates completely out to dry. Davis was even committing lane violations, which just speaks to a lack of concentration. He's making it up as he goes and almost never has a game plan for what he's about to do.
Five — Empty: The Raptors also turned to Yuta Watanabe for his first career start, and although he wasn't actively destructive like Davis, it was still glaringly obvious that Watanabe just wasn't doing anything. Watanabe is an energy player who is the fifth option regardless of who else is on the floor, and energy players can't be invisible, because all that's left to notice is him missing open jumpers or botching a transition layup. Watanabe can be an effective glue player, but there was nothing to be held together tonight.
Six — Silent: The reserves weren't any better, and were utterly demolished by the Pistons' reserves. Even the most hardcore NBA fans couldn't identify Pistons reserve Saben Lee, but now the Raptors will know him as a Chris Paul impersonator, because that's how badly he torched them. The entire second unit for the Raptors was a drag, as Chris Boucher couldn't defend a lick at the basket, while the rest of them couldn't score if their careers depended on it. Matt Thomas broke free at the end for a few jumpers, but he missed every look that actually mattered, and was so porous on defense that career journeyman Rodney McGruder zoomed past him like a Ferrari on Highway 407.
Seven — Wasted: Norman Powell did his best to keep the Raptors alive. He scored at will to start and finished with 36 points on 14-of-20 shooting with five threes. Powell reached deep into his bag to keep pace with the Pistons, including hitting a rare turnaround jumper out of the post, but he couldn't do it on his own. The Pistons were more physical with Powell in the second half, and oriented most of their help defenders toward cutting off his drives, and yet he was still able to break free. He just ran out of gas in the end, and really, there was no more point in chasing the game. The game cannot be won by one man.
Eight — Valiant: Kyle Lowry tried to support Powell every step of the way. He nailed a handful of pull-up jumpers, baited his way into free throws, set up Aron Baynes for rolling dunks, took a charge in transition, and he even passed up open shots in an effort to get his teammates going. But there is only so much Lowry can do, especially when he was tiring by the third quarter, and at some point his teammates need to match his effort. Lowry can do a lot with very little, but even very little was beyond most of the Raptors tonight.
Nine — Tricks: Acting coach Sergio Scariolo left no page unturned in Nick Nurse's playbook. He shifted into zone defenses, deploying a triangle-and-two on the Pistons (really, it was that bad) and calling upon every player on the roster who wasn't a G-League call-up, but nobody answered outside of Lowry and Powell. It's hard to fault Scariolo for this, as everyone is just trying to do their best. The Raptors were off for several days, then had to call a rare evening practice on Tuesday with Jalen Harris and Donta Hall crashing in last minute, and this was the result.
Ten — Schadenfreude: It's been three years since the Raptors dismissed Dwane Casey and replaced him with his assistant, and while time heals all wounds, there might always be some bitterness. Casey issued a coach's challenge on Boucher's drive with four minutes left and his team comfortably leading by 22, which dragged out a game that was decidedly finished regardless of the review. The Pistons have really relished playing against the Raptors over the past few years, and honestly, it's good that the players respond so strongly to their coach. Casey is a good man and an energetic coach, and it's really too bad that he's stuck in a rebuild.
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