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Pistons at Raptors preview: The defending champs have a different look

After winning the NBA Championship, the Toronto Raptors lost their star, but they have still gotten off to a good start.

Detroit Pistons v Toronto Raptors Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Last season, the Toronto Raptors were finally able to break out of the East last season with the departure of LeBron James. Toronto, carried by the Herculean playoff effort of Kawhi Leonard, was able to ride some unfortunate injuries by the Warriors to the NBA Championship.

This season, they are without Kawhi Leonard, after he left Toronto to head back home to Los Angeles, but the defending champs have not really slowed down in the early going of this season. The Raptors are off to a 3-1 start and the Pistons will be facing them for the first time this season after sweeping the Raptors last season.

Game Vitals

Where: Scotiabank Arena, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
When: Wednesday, Oct. 30 at 7:30 pm
Watch: Fox Sports Detroit

Game Analysis

As I mentioned above, the Toronto Raptors no longer have Kawhi Leonard. However, they have gotten off to a very good start due to players like Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet picking up where they left off in the playoffs.

People are not really talking about them, but Toronto is still a very good team. You don’t dethrone the Golden State Warriors by being a one-man team. The loss of Kawhi Leonard likely takes Toronto out of the running for an NBA Championship, but they will still be battling for one of the middle seeds in the Eastern Conference this season.

Not having Blake Griffin for this game is going to be a tough blow, because the Pistons will be without somebody to match with Pascal Siakam, who has become Toronto’s star player in the absence of Kawhi. He is averaging 27.5 points and 10.3 rebounds per game to start this season, and the Pistons power forward rotation of Markieff Morris, Christian Wood, and Thon Maker likely is going to struggle mightily to defend him.

The Raptors have also been utilizing two point guards this season with Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet both starting. I doubt the Pistons go with a two point-guard lineup to match up with them, but this is a game where Luke Kennard can get a favorable defensive matchup if he is the starter. The offense the Pistons got from their starting lineup was much improved with the insertion of Luke Kennard last game against the Indiana Pacers, but you are also weakening the bench by separating the “Guns and Roses” duo.

Reggie Jackson did not even travel with the team to Toronto due to his back injury, which continues to play a large role on who will start. The Pistons will likely keep Luke Kennard as a starter since Reggie is out, but as Ku Khahil mentioned, Dwane Casey does not sound sold on Luke as a full-time starter.

Reggie’s injury also keeps Tim Frazier in the rotation, who did not make a shot in his 22 minutes against Indiana Monday, but also dished eight assists and didn’t turn the ball over. Frazier needs to contribute more in the scoring column and be up to the challenge of guarding one of Kyle Lowry or Fred VanVleet.

Projected Starting Lineups

Pistons: Tim Frazier, Luke Kennard, Tony Snell, Markieff Morris, Andre Drummond

Raptors: Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol

Score Prediction

Pistons 107, Raptors 104

Even though the Pistons swept the Raptors last season, most of the games were close - one buzzer-beater, one three-point win, and a game that went to overtime. Dwane Casey seems to have his old team figured out, and I expect that to continue. The Pistons likely aren’t going to sweep them again this season, but the team has played better early-on without Blake Griffin than I thought they were going to. I expect Derrick Rose to bounce back from a rough game and pace the bench to another good early season win.

Question of the Day

Where do you think the Toronto Raptors will finish in the standings this season?