The Raptors (58-22), who are now just trying to stay healthy having clinched home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs, are coming off a 112-101 victory over the Orlando Magic on Sunday night.
C. J. Miles scored 22 points while rookie OG Anunoby added a season-high 21. Raptors coach Dwane Casey sat starters DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas, but Miles and Anunoby combined for ten of Toronto’s 17 3-pointers. Norman Powell, filling in for DeRozan, had 13 points and four assists.
Detroit (38-42), who will miss the playoffs for the eighth time in nine years, were denied a third straight victory after a 130-117 defeat at Memphis on Sunday. Anthony Tolliver scored 19 points and Henry Ellenson added a career-high 17 as the Pistons had seven players in double figures but also had a porous defense that allowed the Grizzlies to shoot 57.8 percent and make 16 of 33 from beyond the arc.
Toronto, who have won the last five games between the teams, are trying to complete a season series sweep for the first time since winning all four games in 2009/10. The Raptors are also seeking their eighth victory in their last ten trips to Detroit.
Three keys to the game
Miles finally breaks out - It had been a long time coming for Miles, whose 22 points and five 3-pointers were his most since scoring 24 and going six for nine from beyond the arc at Charlotte on February 11.
He had gone seven for 35 from deep over his past six games, prompting Casey to give him extended minutes in hopes he would provide a performance like he gave Sunday.
Van Gundy ready for a future with or without basketball - Many thought this would be a make-or-break year for the Pistons as Van Gundy will have one year left on his contract as coach and president of basketball operations after next week. He will sit down with owner Tom Gores to discuss his future and is prepared to ride out his contract or ride off into the sunset.
"If I were in my second year as an NBA coach and building my career, had young kids and didn’t have financial security (I might be worried), but none of those things are true," Van Gundy told the Detroit Free Press last month when addressing his job security. "I’ve been very, very fortunate. I don’t need to work another day in my life. I have all the security I need. This is all about what’s best for the organization.
"I have no apprehension at all. If I’m not here next year, I’m not chasing jobs anywhere else. You can look for me on my lake the summer (in Michigan) and my porch in Florida in the winter."
Casey wants 60 wins - The Raptors coach knows all about the milestone, having served as an assistant with the Seattle SuperSonics when they accomplished the feat three times. While he is balancing the quest with keeping players fresh, he also admits it would be a nice feather in Toronto's cap.
“I think in Seattle we won 60 three times and it’s a milestone,” Casey told the Toronto Star. “You want to accomplish that. It’s not the end all, be all. We’d like to accomplish it, but not at the expense of overplaying players… but it’s important. There are very few times in your organization’s history that you have the opportunity to win 60. It’s a good mark to have along with winning your conference.”
Matchup to watch
PG Kyle Lowry vs PG Reggie Jackson - Lowry could get the night off considering DeRozan was given Sunday off, but like Miles, Casey could keep him in one more game to see if he catches fire. Lowry has not scored over 13 points in any of his last seven games, averaging 10.1 points and 7.0 assists while shooting 32.8 percent.
Jackson is trying to make up for lost time after missing nearly half the season with a severe ankle sprain. It is also an audition to see if Jackson will function in an offense with Blake Griffin next season. He has averaged 17.4 points and 4.6 assists in his last eight games but shooting just 40.8 percent.
Detroit Pistons projected starting lineup
PG - Reggie Jackson | SG - Luke Kennard | C - Andre Drummond | SF - Stanley Johnson | PF - Anthony Tolliver
Toronto Raptors projected starting lineup
PG - Kyle Lowry | SG - DeMar DeRozan | C - Jonas Valanciunas | SF- OG Anunoby | PF - Serge Ibaka
Lowry has played well against the Pistons this season, averaging 17.7 points, 8.0 assists and 7.3 rebounds in Toronto's three wins while shooting 52 percent (13 for 25) from 3-point range. In fact, he has taken only seven shots inside the arc in the three contests, going two for seven.
He had 15 points, 15 assists, seven rebounds and four steals in the most recent meeting, a 121-119 overtime victory at Detroit on March 7, and has averaged 13.9 points and 6.1 assists while knocking down 40.9 percent of his 3-point attempts in 27 career games versus the Pistons.
DeRozan had 42 points in last month's win, but his biggest play in that game was getting the assist on Fred VanVleet's buzzer-beating jumper. He has averaged 26.3 points and 6.0 assists in the three games in 2017/18 while shooting 53.8 percent.
The All-Star guard has a pair of 40-point efforts among his last seven matchups with the Pistons and has averaged 24.1 points and 5.3 assists in that stretch while shooting an even 50 percent.
Pistons center Andre Drummond has been a handful for Valanciunas in the three games, averaging 17.7 points and 18.7 rebounds while recording double-doubles in all three games. Drummond has also picked up eight steals, six assists and five blocks in those contests.
Drummond has averaged 12.6 points and 13.4 rebounds in 21 career matchups with the Raptors, topping 20 boards on two occasions and posting 12 double-doubles.
Since the Pistons shut down Griffin for the season, Anthony Tolliver has made the most of his increased minutes, averaging 16.8 points and 4.7 rebounds in his last six contests while shooting 63.5 percent. Tolliver has been stretching defenses, hitting 22 of 36 from 3-point range (61.1 percent) in that span and has shot 50 percent or better in all six games.
There has been no line established for the game since it is uncertain if the Raptors, who are looking to cover for the ninth time in their last 12 visits to Detroit, will sit any of their regulars
Toronto, though, have little in their favor to offer bettors. They have covered just twice in their last 11 games, have failed to cover in their last four on the road and are 1-6 against the spread in their last seven road games against teams with a home winning percentage above .600.
Detroit have covered in nine of their last ten overall, seven of their last eight at home and six of their last seven against conference rivals. The Pistons are also 12-4 against the number in their last 16 matchups with teams sporting a winning percentage above .600.
The Pistons are also 7-15 against the number in their last 22 games versus Atlantic Division teams.
Regarding the over/under, the over has trended in this series, going 10-4-1 in the last 15 games and 6-2 in the last eight at Detroit. The over has also delivered in Toronto's games of late, going 6-1 when they play on the back end of games on consecutive days and 10-3 in their last 13 road games against teams with a winning record at home.
The over is 5-2 in Detroit's last seven overall and 7-1-1 in their last nine at home against teams with a road winning percentage above .600.
It is always difficult to straddle the fine line between resting players and finding out which players want to play through their fatigue and which players need a rest without admitting they do.
Of all the Raptors, Lowry right now seems to fit into all of those categories, but as the team's best 3-point shooter, he might be the one who most needs one more game to shoot his way out of a slump.
The Pistons are also using the final two games to blood their youngsters, with Ellenson and Luke Kennard getting increased minutes. This could all be for naught if they go in a different direction and not bring back Van Gundy, but the team does need to find out who they can use around Griffin going forward since it will be next to impossible to deal him with his massive contract.
All that said, Toronto should have enough firepower to get through this game with a victory and take their shot at a 60th victory following a 109-103 win.
The game will be televised nationally in Canada on SportsNet ONE and locally on Fox Sports Detroit. Tip-off time is 7 pm EDT.
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