The Toronto Raptors are in the Motor City to take on the Detroit Pistons later tonight. We should see the Pistons at full strength in this spot. On the other side of the ball, it was recently announced that Kawhi Leonard will be rested for this game, changing the dynamic of the Raptors game plan. In the last game Kawhi was out, we saw OG Anunoby take his starting spot and I would assume that is what happens again. It would be interesting to see the Raptors play really big and run their 5 best players on the court with Siakam at the 3. I doubt that will happen, but the Pistons wings really don’t scare me to the point where they could expose Pascal on the perimeter. I do expect Marc Gasol to start over Ibaka, as the Pistons are one of the bigger teams in the league.
Toronto Red Hot
The Raptors are winners of 9 of their last 10 games. Their only loss was to a surging Magic team when the Raptors were without Kawhi. The Raptors did also win 2 games without Kawhi during this stretch. Toronto is obviously worse without Kawhi, but they have consistently seen their best few players rise up to the challenge of not having an All-Star on the court. Siakam has had multiple big games without Kawhi in the lineup and Kyle Lowry becomes much more involved. When Kawhi is in the lineup, we often see Lowry let him run the offense. Lowry proceeds to just sit in the corner and turns into a spot up shooter.
Once Kawhi is out, none of Danny Green, OG Anunoby, or Serge Ibaka ever want the ball besides when it leads to a basket. This is also really the case for Gasol and Siakam as well. This leads to Lowry having his biggest games of the year and ending with a high assist total, which I expect to continue in this game. Lowry has a nice matchup with Reggie Jackson, who is also a pretty small point guard. Lowry is very matchup dependent because he is willing to make the “right” play. Sometimes he has an advantage on his opponent and he takes advantage of it. Other times, he is getting defended well and he will defer to other players on the team. I expect Lowry to be aggressive in this game and be the key to the Raptors game plan.
Detroit Hanging Around Standings
The Pistons are coming into this game on a back-to-back, but they were able to rest more than normal in their last game. They were up 71-38 at halftime over the Cavs and never looked back, eventually winning the game by 36. Their starters only played in the mid-20’s in minutes and I expect this to have zero effect on their performance today. These teams have played once this season and it was a very emotional game for the Pistons. Their coach was fired by the Raptors after last season, even though he was considered the coach of the year. The Raptors thought they were not ever going to get anywhere with Casey, but Casey obviously didn’t take it too well. Blake Griffin had a great game with 30 points, 12 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks. Blake and Andre were able to get the bigs into a little foul trouble, which only helped their production. Siakam, Ibaka, and Gasol are all solid defenders, but Griffin should be able to overpower Siakam like he did in the last matchup and have a big game.
Raptors Top Pistons
This should be a great game, especially without Kawhi, but I still expect the Raptors to win this matchup. The Raptors have more matchup advantages and I expect Lowry to be the biggest beneficiary. I think Marc Gasol and Siakam act as good secondary players and create enough offense to win this game. I’ll take the Raptors (-2.5) in this one.