The story for Detroit going into tonight’s game against Toronto was Dwane Casey’s return. Casey, of course, led the Raptors to the Eastern Conference’s best record last season, earning himself 2018 Coach of the Year honors in the process, before being fired this past May.
The Raptors organization did a very nice video tribute to coach Casey early in the first quarter:
Then the Raptors’ roster beat the tar out of the Pistons for a half, finding themselves up 12 at halftime.
If you were only to watch the first 60 percent of this game, you would have thought it was another aimless game for Detroit, as they found themselves down by 19 points with 3:13 left to go in the third quarter. At this point, for most Pistons not named Blake Griffin, their energy level looked depleted, the urgency was non-existent, and it appeared that Detroit was well on their way to being blown out by 25+ points.
Then... something happened.
Detroit slowly started to chip away from Toronto’s lead - kicked off initially by the token Ish Smith freelance offense, who finished the night with eight points and five assists. Ish knifed his way through Toronto’s defense, finding easy buckets for himself and the surrounding bench players on the floor. Even Jon Leuer saw some action, putting in a couple buckets that helped the Pistons knock the Raptors lead to 11 points come the end of the third quarter.
Then, in the fourth quarter, one of the most crucial aspects to Detroit’s comeback (aside from another monster game from Blake Griffin - 30 points, 12 rebounds, three assists), was the play of Stanley Johnson. Johnson (12 points, one dime and a couple boards) played phenomenal defense on Kawhi Leonard, and hit back-to-back three pointers (!?!?!?) midway through the 4th quarter to trim Toronto’s lead to just one point:
Then, with 4:50 left in the game, Reggie Jackson netted a floater to give Detroit their first lead of the game since midway through the first quarter.
The two teams traded baskets and stops until Toronto had ball with just 10 seconds left. Prized Raptors addition, two-time Defensive Player of the Year, and Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard looked to iso while being guarded by Johnson. The Raptors best player, who finished the night with 26 points, nine rebounds and four assists, somehow just... aimlessly dribbled the ball off his foot. Detroit basketball.
Maybe Johnson spooked him, and he decided he didn’t want none - we’ll never know.
After a failed lob attempt to Glenn Robinson III with two seconds left, Dwane Casey drew up this magic...
Reggie Bullock at the buzzer, revenge for Dwane Casey back in Toronto pic.twitter.com/uc4XRiqru4— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) November 15, 2018
Detroit 106, Toronto 104 - a great finish for Detroit, but an even better finish for Coach Casey.