A game between the best and the third worst teams in the Eastern Conference might not sound compelling, but the Toronto Raptors and Detroit Pistons put on a show in a game that must have felt like home away from home for the visitors. The Palace was rocking with Raptors fans and they got their money’s worth for taking the long bus trip to Detroit.
“I thought Detroit was hosting a Toronto Raptors night,” said forward James Johnson.
Johnson must have loved the attention as he put down what might just be the slam dunk of the season over the outstretched arms of Andre Drummond to put the Raptors up by 20 points midway through the fourth quarter.
“I cocked that thing back and banged on him,” Johnson said.
Apparently Drummond didn’t appreciate being ‘Mozgoved’ by Johnson and on the very next play he sent Johnson crashing to the court with a shoulder block as the Raptors forward was about to embarrass him again. The foul and ensuing scuffle resulted in Drummond receiving a flagrant one and technical fouls to Chuck Hayes, Patrick Patterson, Greg Monroe and Drummond. Johnson made the two foul shots and Lou Williams hit a three-pointer as the Raptors got the ball back because of the flagrant foul for the elusive 5-point play.
“Drummond did what he was supposed to do when somebody is about ready to dunk on you and James and Chuck and Pat did what they are supposed to do and standup for their teammates,” explained Head Coach Dwane Casey. “No harm, I’ve seen far worse than that in the old days.”
The game wound down from there without incident and little intensity as the teams still had to kill 6:42 before they could call it a night. In the process the Pistons brought the final score to a less offensive 10 point loss.
This late incident would have made the trip to Detroit worth it if nothing else happened, but the fans were treated to so much more and they showed their appreciation.
“I thought our fans – the buses that came up – our fans were unbelievable,” Casey said. “I thought that got us going once we got our plays, our energy going, our fans took over and gave us a huge boost. We out-cheered – if there is such a thing – Detroit’s fans.”
Toronto fans were loud from the start, however, the Pistons put a damper on it with a strong first quarter. Other than the ‘M.V.P.’ chants for Kyle’s Lowry’s two trips to the free throw line, the Raptors fans were left waiting for something to cheer about.
The Pistons dominated early with 7 blocked shots – 3 by Drummond – and came away with a 31-25 lead after 12 minutes. Unfortunately for Detroit, the Raptors bench could be considered even tougher than their current starting unit and the Pistons didn’t get another block after the first quarter and the game started turning in Toronto’s favor for good.
“I give our bench a lot of credit,” Casey said. “They came in and did their job. Really, really excited (about the) way (they are) coming in and establishing a style of play, establishing an identity that you need with your second unit.”
The Raptors reserves outscored the Pistons bench 59-41 with everyone contributing. As has been the case several times already this season, it was Hayes coming in for limited minutes that took the Pistons big men off their game – a change in momentum from which they never recovered.
“Chuck is a pro, he’s a pro’s pro,” Casey said. “He is a veteran, knows how to play, knows every play, knows every defensive scheme. He was exactly what we needed.”
Midway through the third quarter as the Raptors were beginning to open up a lead on the Pistons, Landry Fields fell hard to the deck after going for a pump-fake by Kyle Singler. Fields landed on the back of his head and was bleeding profusely as he walked off the court after several very anxious moments.
“It scared me, especially when I saw the blood gushing out,” Casey said. “It scared me, but he’s fine. They had him doing different tests and stuff, so he’s fine.”
Raptors Media Relations reported Fields needed 8 stitches to close the cut on the back of his head, but he passed the concussion tests.
Jonas Valanciunas led the Raptors with 17 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks. James Johnson ended up with 12 points and 8 boards. Lowry and Williams combined for 30 points.
Brandon Jennings led Detroit with 22 points and 8 assists. Drummond only played 20.7 minutes and had 7 points, 11 boards and 3 blocks.
The Raptors won 110-100 and with all that went on in one NBA game, the Pistons will probably find it even easier to sell tickets to the Toronto fans when the Raptors return on March 24th.
— Matt Devlin (@Matt__Devlin) December 20, 2014
photo credit: Paul Saini Fylmm.com
The Toronto Raptors Jonas Valanciunas’ star has been rising with his team’s as the young center is off to the best start in his brief NBA career. Andre Drummond, on the other hand, is still putting up numbers that are comparable to his encouraging rookie year as the 5-21 Detroit Pistons could only wish this season was as good as last year’s disappointing campaign.
“He’s a lot stronger this year that’s for sure,” Amir Johnson said. “It’s hard for guys to box out a 7-footer, especially when you are in the paint. He has been able to hold his ground and grab boards for us which we need him to. He’s our big man in the paint and he’s been getting the job done for us and that’s all you can ask from a starting center. He’s been doing well.”