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Pistons vs Raptors preview: Nick Nurse, the defense wizard

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Toronto remains at the top of the league on defense because of the way their schemes utilize their personnel

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

The Toronto Raptors remain a top-five team in the Eastern conference even after the loss of Kawhi Leonard because they defend their butts off (fourth in the league in DRTG at 103.3) and Pascal Siakam’s development into a a player you can entrust with the whole of your offense. The Detroit Pistons find themselves a top-10 team in Eastern Conference because they can’t afford to lose Reggie Jackson and Blake Griffin for an extended portion of the season, and they do not defend consistently (19th in DRTG at 110.5). That tells you everything you need to know about those two teams, really.

Game Vitals:

When: December 18th, 2019, 7:00 p.m. EST
Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, MI
Watch: Fox Sports Detroit, NBA League Pass

Analysis:

Here’s former Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy breaking down the different defenses the Raptors have deployed this season in various situations:

The thing that stands out to me, at least, is that in addition to Raptors’ head coach Nick Nurse being willing to play a Box-And-1 or Triangle-And-2, is the personnel he has available that make those defenses effective. Marc Gasol is a former DPOY and (as you heard SVG say) an excellent communicator on that end of the floor. With Siakam, OG Anunoby, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Patrick McCaw and Chris Boucher, the Raptors have a TON of size and length on the wing they can throw at you. And although Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet are on the smaller side for guards, they are competitive and execute defensively.

It’s a marriage of personnel and a coach who’s willing to use every bit of it in service of winning.

Conversely, you know, Dwane Casey has made this Pistons team effective on the defensive end by playing drop coverage and coercing teams into taking fewer threes in lieu of shots at the rim. But that was less effective against the Washington Wizards last game, without Blake Griffin or Andre Drummond, because, well, Christian Wood and Thon Maker were the guys teams were shooting over at the rim. Sean Corp has you covered on that front.

Will the Pistons struggle without their two starting big men tonight? Your guess is as good as mine:

Projected Lineups:

Detroit Pistons (11-16):
Bruce Brown Jr., Luke Kennard, Tony Snell, Markieff Morris, Andre Drummond

Toronto Raptors (18-8):
Kyle Lowry, Norman Powell, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol

Stray Thoughts:

  • I am not enjoying Thon Maker’s return to the rotation.
  • I DID enjoy this ESPN interview of Andre Drummond:
  • Dre sounded ... less sure of his free agency prospects than he did this summer, for whatever that’s worth.
  • We haven’t heard a peep about Reggie Jackson lately, not a great sign regarding his health - he was supposed to be re-evaluated this week.

Prediction:

Toronto 109, Detroit 100