The Toronto Raptors are in town. Which means Little Caesar’s arena will probably be littered with a healthy amount of Raptors fans, repping their black and red, or possibly purple colors, as they’ll likely execute acoustical dominance over your hometown Detroit Pistons fans. Unfortunately for Detroit, this has been par for the course for nearly a decade, dating back to when head coach Dwane Casey took over in Toronto, and made them essentially an Eastern Conference contender.
Unlike years prior, when the Raptors would regularly punch above their weight class, this iteration has largely underperformed this season. They’ve hovered around and below .500 all season, and currently sit at 29-31. They’re aiming to make the playoffs for the ninth time in the last ten years, and have a perfect opportunity to knock down an already weary Pistons squad who have lost eight of their last ten games.
When: 12:00 p.m. EST
Where: Little Caesar’s Arena, Detroit, MI
Watch: Bally Sports Detroit
Odds: Pistons +7
The Raptors are currently 2-0 against Detroit this season, but have only won those two games by a combined 5 points. And although a win is a win, perhaps beating one of the NBA’s worst teams by such slim margins is testament to the fact that the Raptors weren’t where they expected to be.
Instead of punting on a disappointing season, and building for the long term, Toronto zigged when many thought they would zag. It was rumored that the Raptors were gauging interest in many of their core players at the trade deadline, including Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., Pascal Siakam, and OG Anunoby. This may have been the case, but in the end, Masai Ujiri decided to stand pat on those guys, and add to their group by acquiring Jakob Poeltl from the San Antonio Spurs.
Poeltl is playing some of the best basketball in his career, as he’s averaging 12.4 points, on 64% shooting, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 stocks per game. To the Raptors credit, they’re 3-1 since acquiring Poeltl, and 6-1 in their last seven games, and now only sit four games back of the New York Knicks, who currently hold the 6th seed.
For Detroit, while this season has been an absolute slog, there has been some encouraging performances as of late, most notably from rookie Jaden Ivey. Ivey had one of his best game as a Piston in Thursday night’s dramatic loss to the Orlando Magic, where he scored 25 points and knocked down a game-tying three (that should have been a four point play) with 4.5 seconds remaining.
Over Ivey’s last 10 games, he’s averaging nearly 17 points per game on 50/46/69 splits. Not only is he knocking down shots with regularity, he’s been more in control of the game. He’s not making as many silly turnovers, and has found an excellent drive and dump rhythm with Jalen Duren, which is a great sign for Detroit’s future. Will it be enough to slow down the red hot Raptors? Possibly, he almost led Detroit to an impressive comeback the last time these two teams faced off.
Killian Hayes, Jaden Ivey, Bojan Bogdanovic, Isaiah Stewart, Jalen Duren
Gary Trent Jr., Scottie Barnes, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Jakob Poeltl
Question of the Day
Would one successful season with Cade Cunningham end the Raptors fan presence in Detroit?