By now the Toronto Raptors should know better: Don’t take the Detroit Pistons and Dwane Casey for granted.
It doesn’t matter how bad the Pistons have been — and they’ve been bad — Casey seems to always have Toronto’s number. It’s the only explanation for why the Raptors seem to struggle so mightily against one of the league’s worst teams. Despite Casey’s 43-107 record in Detroit, Toronto’s old coach moved to 7-3 against his old team courtesy of a 127-121 nail-biter Saturday night.
“He certainly always has them ready to play when he comes in here,” Casey’s successor Nick Nurse said. “We knew we were going to be in for a tough game tonight and they played very, very well.”
You can’t fault Casey for having his squad a little extra ready when he sees the Raptors. He was the coach that famously won the NBA’s Coach of the Year award and was subsequently shown the door in a matter of days. He was the man Masai Ujiri and company felt couldn’t get the job done in Toronto, couldn’t lead the organization to the Promised Land.
“We know how much it means to him. We support Coach Casey,” Pistons center Isaiah Stewart said. “We want the win for ourselves and organization, but also coach.”
It was the kind of game the Raptors of old wouldn’t have had trouble with. They built up a nine-point lead against an NBA bottom dweller and should have cruised to victory. Even when Detroit took a late lead it only seemed like a matter of time before Toronto came back. But a trio of turnovers and some clutch three-pointers from the Pistons buried the Raptors.
“We weren’t pressuring the ball near enough so they were pretty comfortable, bunch of missed assignments on things early, going under some shooters and things like that that we don’t normally do, or shouldn’t do,” Nurse said. “We never really got to a defensive presence at all and then when the game as kind of on the line there late, they just beat us one-on-one about three straight times and finished ‘em. We didn’t keep them in front well enough there.”
The brightspot for Toronto was the first big game for Pascal Siakam since his return from offseason shoulder surgery. He played facilitator early, with six first-half assists before calling his own number in the second half, tallying a game-high 25 points.
"I just continued to play within the offense, see what's out there, being more mindful of seeing the floor more, and understanding what's the next play," Siakam said. "Knowing when to attack and when to have the ball, or anything like that. And it's game three for me, so I'm just continuing to try to figure it out."
VanVleet's Injury Not Serious
Fred VanVleet missed Saturday's game with a strained groin. It's been a nagging issue for him lately, Nurse said pre-game, but isn't expected to keep him sidelined for very long.
Up Next: Portland Trail Blazers
The Raptors will hit the road for their first West Coast road trip of the season starting on Monday night at 10 p.m. ET against the Portland Trail Blazers.