Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE
The Raptors couldn't come at a better time for a reeling Pistons team. Greg Monroe and company could have a big night as long as they find some way to limit the damage done by Toronto's pair of dangerous point guards.
The Pistons picked a bad time to have their worst performance of the season. After Wednesday's travesty against the Orlando Magic the team, its fans and the media were all given an off day to examine just how truly wretched the performance was. To dwell on the 21-0 run to start the second half and to wonder what the hell is going on. Never had I wished for a back-to-back more in my life. The Pistons look to right the ship tonight at home against a fellow horrible team -- the Raptors.
Game Tips at 7:30 P.M. EST
Inexplicably, the Pistons' season seems to be on the precipice -- a loss against the Magic that should probably just be seen as an outlier has somehow taken on all matters of significance. If the team had eked out an extra win or two before that showing it probably would have been quickly forgotten. But because it pushed the team to 2-10 all of a sudden it seems like it is forcing everyone to call for the heads of the GM, the coach and several players.
First, Tayshaun Prince says Lawrence Frank should have essentially benched him and the other starters faster during that third-quarter run and then Will Bynum complains about being forced to try and gel with a bunch of new faces in the reserve unit. Even the beat writers, normally reticent to criticize, have started wondering about Frank's future and David Mayo went so far as to call Frank's substitutions "paint by numbers."
Obviously, it is hard to say whether this really is already a tipping point. Perhaps Prince, as he is wont to do, was just speaking his mind after an extremely frustrating loss and there is no rift with Frank. Maybe Bynum was trying to throw his coach under the bus or maybe he is just trying to adapt, knowing he isn't performing well and is honestly talking about his frustration.
You have to take most things that coaches and GMs say with a grain of salt but one thing I do believe is that both Frank and Joe Dumars view this season as more of a marathon than a sprint. Of course no one plansto go 2-10 but in how they've established the initial player rotation to how they've talked about Andre Drummond's role, I think they have a way they want to finish the season and a plan on how to get there.
But as the losses continue to mount they will be forced to adjust on the fly, and if discontent again becomes an issue from the veterans then they will be forced to make moves so that things don't spin out of control.
But like I said, I think the single loss to Orlando, while embarrassing, doesn't hold any special meaning and should be forgotten as soon as possible. And nothing serves as a better palate cleanser than playing another struggling team like the Raptors, who have their own reasons to be upset right now.
Keys to the Game
Guards have to show up - The Raptors point guards, Kyle Lowry and Jose Calderon have the skills to absolutely embarrass the Pistons. Conversely, the Pistons guards are the primary reason the team only has two wins thus far. Brandon Knight has shown a desire to do more point guard things and occasionally will string quality possessions together, but overall he has continued to struggle in his role leading the team. Meanwhile, Will Bynum has been dreadful and Rodney Stuckey still can't get untracked offensively.
The Raptors don't do a lot of damage in the paint and instead rely on the duo of Lowry and Calderon to put their teammates in a great position to convert good jump-shot opportunities. The Pistons have to limit the point guards and also have their own guards be a net positive on the offensive end.
Drummond, Monroe; Monroe, Drummond, etc. - Yes, we all know what we want to see. But not only is Frank admitting that he wants to find more time for Drummond but they actually match up pretty well against the Raptors. The Pistons struggle defending the paint but Toronto doesn't usually do a lot of damage inside. Toronto's bigs perhaps the worst in the NBA. Luckily, the Pistons have the awesome Greg Monroe as well as the overperforming Jason Maxiell and the emerging Andre Drummond. While the Pistons will assuredly lose the guard battle they could make huge gains with good showings from their big guys. Plus, it will be an opportunity to see Jonas Valancunias, Toronto's own promising big man.
Paging the bench - Will Bynum needs to shoot less, pass more and take care of the ball. Rodney Stuckey needs to score efficiently and not give possessions away. Jonas Jerebko needs to show up and provide hustle, energy and get some garbage buckets. The Raptors have little offense off the bench, just Calderon and rookie Terrence Ross are providing any offensive punch. The Pistons need to avoid collapses in any quarter and have the better bench tonight.
Questions of the Game:
What happens first -- a trade, the firing of Lawrence Frank or the firing of Joe Dumars?