It wasn’t easy, but Raptors got it done
DETROIT — A bad Pistons team provided the perfect tonic for the battered and bruised Toronto Raptors on Monday night in the Motor City.
Missing a large chunk of the regular rotation and reeling from a pair of disappointing losses on this road trip, the Raptors got big efforts from Canadians Chris Boucher and Dalano Banton and O.G. Anunoby. It was enough — barely, for a 115-111 victory.
Anunoby made a couple of key blocks in the fourth quarter and rookie Jeff Dowtin made a huge block of his own in the dying seconds before Banton sealed it with a couple of free throws to get to a career-best 27 points. Boucher had 20, Anunoby 19. Jaden Ivey’s 21 led the Pistons.
The Raptors had dropped three of four to fall to .500 after losing winnable games in Oklahoma City and Indianapolis, but did what was necessary to salvage the trip and a brutal six games-in-nine-nights stretch. Not that Detroit would go away, despite trailing by 11 entering the fourth quarter.
The Pistons came within a point twice in the final quarter, and within two with under 10 seconds remaining,
Toronto had yet another new look starting lineup, with Banton making his second career start. And it was a memorable one, with the Rexdale product going off.
THE INJURY BEAT GOES ON
Already missing Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and Precious Achiuwa, the Raptors also didn’t have starting shooting guard Gary Trent Jr. available due to right hip soreness. Trent was coming off one of his worst shooting games ever. VanVleet was sent home early due to a non-COVID illness. Siakam is a ways away and Achiuwa is still in a walking boot.
“I don’t have much choice other than trying to figure out how to go out there and win a game,” Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said of his depleted roster.
“Like I say, nobody’s gonna feel sorry or us or whatever, we’ve got to figure it out and we can. With these guys, they gotta figure it out, we’ve got to help them a little bit more, organize them a little bit more. There’s more things that need to get communicated and relayed from us to them, from them to each other,” he said, noting recent late-game break-downs.
“Usually that chemistry will build a little bit when these guys get used to playing … it was the first time those groups ever played together. Those groupings. And the more minutes they get, the more chemistry they’ll build, that’s all we can do.”
The Raptors will host Kyle Lowry and the Miami Heat on Wednesday.
NOTHING EXTRA FOR CASEY
No team has done better against the Raptors since Nurse took over than his old boss, long-time Raptors head coach Dwane Casey’s Detroit Pistons. Detroit came in 6-3 against Nurse’s Raptors teams. Is there anything extra Casey does to rev up the troops following his unceremonious Toronto exit?
“None, no. You can ask the players. I don’t change a word that I say in shootaround,” Casey said pre-game. “(I) don’t mention: ‘We’ve got to get these guys.’ Nothing like that at all. This is business as usual,” he said.
It’s been a rough start to the season for these Pistons, who took a 3-11 record into the game and have lost top player Cade Cunningham for a bit due to an injury. Casey knows that patience is the key with his young group, just as it once was in his first few years in Toronto.
“Just going through that experience in Toronto was huge. If I hadn’t gone through that as a head coach I’d have probably been pulling my hair out (with all the losing),” Casey said.
“You can see the growth. Everybody wants to win yesterday, which they should, but it takes time for young players to grow up. You guys saw with (Jonas) Valanciunas you saw with DeMar (DeRozan) you saw it with a lot of young guys up there. It takes time.
You want to wave a magic wand and have them be like somebody we know, but that doesn’t happen that way. Having that experience has taught me patience,” he said.
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Casey, who leads all Raptors coaches in wins (320) and games (558), is now three games shy of 1,000 for his long career. Add in his 14 seasons as an assistant coach, plus playoff and pre-season games and he’s sat on an NBA bench for around 2,500 games, quite an achievement.
“It means you’re old, one thing. It means you’re getting older and you’ve seen a lot,” Casey said with a smile.
“You’ve seen player’s kids come into the league. I remember holding Gary Payton Jr. When he was a little baby in Seattle. You know, and now he’s in the league now so it’s … blessed humbled but it’s just longevity more than anything else. And me I have the fortune of coaching a lot of great players when I look back on it. A lot of guys in the Hall of Fame and going to be in the Hall of Fame so I’m blessed.”