The Detroit Pistons' frontline of Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond and summer signee Josh Smith were probably the most hyped group of bigs heading into this season, a central reason why the Pistons were a trendy playoff pick. Now, they are 15 games below .500 and getting dominated inside by the Toronto Raptors (36-27).
The Raps rode a 54-39 edge on the boards (and a 15-9 advantage on the offensive glass) to 10 more shots from the field and a steady, start-to-finish performance that resulted in a 101-87 win, the team's 15th in their past 19 home games. After taking a 5-4 lead within the first two minutes on Wednesday's game, Toronto did not relinquish that advantage through the game's remaining 46 minutes.
After struggling in Brooklyn, DeMar DeRozan got back on track with a game-high 25 points on 8-20 shooting, with eight made free throws in nine attempts and an impressive +30 plus/minus rating. Also dominating in plus/minus was a +28 Amir Johnson, who poured in 20 points on 8-14 shooting and added nine rebounds (five offensive). Meanwhile, in the latest "12 Deep" development, Chuck Hayes gobbled up eight rebounds in just 18 minutes on the floor.
Jonas Valanciunas' 13 rebounds led both teams (and got the better of his second-year rival Drummond), but the rebounding advantage would not have been possible without a collective effort. With Patrick Patterson still out of the lineup, six Raptors had four or more rebounds and four had eight or more (among them was an eight-rebound showing by Greivis Vasquez). What didn't appear in any stat line was the number of times Toronto contested the rebound opportunity that resulted off of their own misses, wearing down a Detroit side that had to fight to gain position on every loose ball. The Pistons entered the game with an NBA-leading 52.6 PIP and 14.5 offensive boards per game, but were held to 38 and nine, respectively, on this night.
In a season filled with Conference games against - let's face it - weak competition, the Raps deserve some level of credit for winning the games they should win. Since the Rudy Gay trade, the club is 24-5 in games against sub-.500 competition. They may make things more interesting than they need to be on occasion, but at least they aren't coughing away the gimme's.
Jennings Goes Off
I guess a 10-15 shooting night from Brandon Jennings counts as a negative (he is, after all, one of the few Pistons that you have to keep an eye on). But really, his 24 points came off of a few impossibly deep three's and his shooting performance was balanced out by four turnovers and a -15 on the night. Really, this was about as big a weakness as you could find from the home side on Wednesday.
Paul Coffey sitting courtside was about the most notable off-court happening on a night where a merciless snowstorm seemed to suck a lot of the energy out of the building.
If you're the Detroit Pistons, how can you justify another off-season in which Joe Dumars is making executive personnel decisions? The nail in the coffin for the former Bad Boy probably should have been the albatross contracts to Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon a few summers ago. However, now it looks like the final straw will come in the form of Smith, who Dumars was trying to ship out at the deadline, just months into his four-year, $54 million pact.
I'll be sitting out the next few recaps (you'll hear from me after the March 21st game vs OKC), but the Raps are back in action on Friday night when they host the Memphis Grizzlies (7:00pm, TSN).
Prediction: Grizzlies 97, Raps 96 (38-14 this season)