Detroit is one of the NBA’s top three-point shooting teams with one of the league’s top rebounders in Andre Drummond, but that didn’t matter when the Pistons rolled into Toronto to face the Eastern Conference’s second place Raptors and center Jonas Valanciunas. The Raptors are one of the best at defending the three-point line and they put the hot shooting Pistons in their place 96-91.
Toronto opened with a 31-18 first quarter as Drummond looked lost and the Pistons couldn’t shoot straight. But, the Pistons fought back only to lose the game to a Raptors 12-2 fourth quarter run that erased a one-point Pistons lead and put the game out of reach.
“Andre put up good good numbers, but,” Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy said. “In that middle 30 minutes, second, third quarter into the fourth, I thought he was good defensively, but he didn’t start the game with a defensive mentality and then he didn’t get up on the two pick-and-rolls late. It’s unfortunate because we had fought really hard to get back in that game and to have two plays like that where you just got to be up and you’re not.
“It’s unfortunate because obviously 25 (points) and 17 (rebounds) is a helluva night against a really good player (Valanciunas) and a really good team.”
Valanciunas had 17 points and 16 rebounds playing 10 fewer minutes than Drummond.
With the centers essentially cancelling each other out on the glass, the Raptors won the battle of the boards 49-42 thanks in part to Toronto’s second best rebounder, 6′ point guard Kyle Lowry, digging out 9 rebounds.
Unfortunately for Detroit, even with Drummond, getting out rebounded is nothing new. Their rebounding differential was a -1.7 heading into the game. The Raptors are a +1.1 rebounds.
However, the most obvious issue for Detroit on this night was shooting 35.7 percent from three to make 10 on 28 attempts.
The Pistons are shooting an NBA third best 38.4 percent from three and feature six players hitting 39.5 percent or better, but not on this night.
The Raptors are holding opponents to the NBA’s fewest number of made threes per game (9.0) at the fifth lowest percentage (34.8). They average 11.2 threes shooting 35.1 percent and hit their averages going 11-31 against the Pistons.
Again, unfortunately, this is nothing new for the Pistons. As well as they shoot the three, they can’t defend it and on the season they are just a +0.4 net on made threes per game.
As if to add insult to injury, even Valanciunas made an uncontested three-pointer for Toronto on this night, improving to 7-20 from three on the season.
The loss leaves the Pistons with a 22-21 record and just a half game from falling to ninth place. There is hope the return of injured players will strengthen the team’s rotation, but as The Detroit News Rod Beard writes, Pistons torn between dealing, riding out storm
Pistons general manager Jeff Bower sat in the stands at Air Canada Centre during Wednesday morning’s shootaround, using his phone.
There’s no time for Words With Friends; he was doing some online shopping — perusing possible deals and making and taking calls about other roster possibilities.
Detroit has what a lot of teams are looking for, good three-point shooters. Maybe Bower can find a play-maker who could up his team’s bottom 10 assist numbers and create more opportunities for all those shot makers he’s accumulated?
Stephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.