Fresh off a nationally televised win in which Cade Cunningham and the Detroit Pistons outdueled No. 2 pick Jalen Green and the Houston Rockets, Cunningham and the Pistons underwhelmed against No. 3 pick Evan Mobley and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday, a defeat that was downright painful for Pistons’ fans to watch.
Now, the Pistons head to Toronto for a showdown with No. 4 overall pick Scottie Barnes and the Toronto Raptors.
Barnes has impressed, and the Raptors have had a solid start to the season, setting the Pistons up for a tough matchup on the second night of a back-to-back.
When: Saturday, November 13, 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario
Watch: Bally Sports Detroit
Odds: Raptors -9
The Raptors have been steady with a 7-6 start to the season, coming off an impressive win against the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday. The team is led in scoring by Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby, both averaging 19.7 points per contest. The Raptors also recently got a big boost with the return of Pascal Siakam from injury. Siakam rested in Toronto’s last game against the 76ers, but should be in the lineup tonight against the Pistons.
Precious Achuiwa and Khem Birch are both listed as questionable for tonight’s game.
Although the Raptors’ previous season results landed them the No. 4 overall pick in last year’s draft, they certainly do not operate like a team that expects to be in the lottery again. Funny enough, the player they selected fourth overall has been a key ingredient to their success thus far.
The Raptors made waves with their decision to select Scottie Barnes out of Florida State rather than Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs with their top-five pick. To this point, at least, that call looks like a stroke of genius from Masai Ujiri, the Raptors’ president of basketball operations.
Barnes’ per game averages 11 games into the season include 16.6 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.1 steals and 0.7 blocks with a .563 true shooting percentage.
Tonight’s matchup marks No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham’s third straight game facing a player drafted top-five in the same draft. He performed admirably against No. 2 pick Jalen Green with 20 points in the win, but struggled against No. 3 pick Evan Mobley and the Cavs, scoring just nine points (none in the second half) and turning the ball over seven times.
It will be no easy feat for Cunningham to get back on track tonight, as Barnes could pose the toughest defensive matchup of all three opponents.
We don’t yet know what the Raptors’ defensive game plan will look like, as it’s possible Barnes will forgo Cunningham as a defensive assignment to see a hefty dose of Jerami Grant, similar to the matchup with Mobley. However, one could foresee a Toronto game plan that places Anunoby on Grant, allowing Barnes to lock onto Cunningham for the game. If this occurs – get ready for some intense one-on-one matchups.
Outside of the Cunningham and Barnes storyline, the Pistons simply have to make shots. Detroit shot a putrid 29-of-79 (36.7%) from the field and 9-of-30 (30%) from three last night against the Cavs, en route to a season low 78 points - a new bottom for an offense that was already considered one of, if not the worst offense in the league.
We used this graphic in the postgame yesterday, but it’s such a prevalent issue that we feel inclined to show it again.
The Pistons are shooting 39.6% this season, the worst by any team since 1960.— StatMuse (@statmuse) November 13, 2021
That’s more than SIXTY years ago. The Lakers were still in Minneapolis then.
They are also shooting 28.6% from three, the worst by any team in the last 20 seasons. pic.twitter.com/mTUWV2Cvln
Simply put, Detroit will not win many games if the shooting woes continue like this. It’s important to acknowledge that we are only 11 games in. However, at what point does the narrative shift from “the shots will fall” to “this team can’t shoot?”
As an avid Killian Hayes truther, I feel the need to include that Hayes still leads the team in 3-point percentage among eligible candidates at 38.5% from deep.
For the Pistons to beat the Raptors - or any team that comes after them - the shooters need to start hitting shots. Saddiq Bey is shooting 25.8% from three, Frank Jackson is at 23.4%, Cunningham is at 23.1% (albeit improving by the game), and Kelly Olynyk (who is at 34.1% and was beginning to heat up) is out for the foreseeable future. The three-point shooting, and shot-making in general, will be the single most important point of emphasis the rest of the way.
Ideally, the Pistons will catch fire one game and carry that momentum with them the rest of the season. All Pistons fans can do is cross their fingers and hope that game comes today.
Toronto Raptors (7-6):
Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr. OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam
Detroit Pistons (2-9):
Cade Cunningham, Killian Hayes, Saddiq Bey, Jerami Grant, Isaiah Stewart
Question of the Game
Will Hamidou Diallo see the court again for the Pistons after last night’s kerfuffle with Dwane Casey?
(Okay, we won’t figure this out by the end of the game. But still, we had to mention it, right?)