The Toronto Raptors were hopeful that the return of Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam would be enough to snap their losing streak, but the Detroit Pistons had other plans.
Although Norman Powell erupted for a career-high 43 points, the Pistons were able to halt the Raptors late fourth quarter comeback behind a few big shots and one very clutch bucket from Jerami Grant.
For more on this contest, we had you covered with some thoughts below.
1. Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam return
The Raptors have been without VanVleet, Siakam, OG Anunoby and Malachi Flynn for six consecutive games due to the league's health and safety protocols, while Patrick McCaw has missed the last five for the same reason. VanVleet, Siakam, Flynn and McCaw were all cleared to practice ahead of this contest against the Pistons, while Anunoby is still out for the time-being.
Just before tip-off, it was announced that the foursome would be ready to suit up, with VanVleet and Siakam assuming their normal positions in the starting lineup.
As both stars attempted to get their wind back in their first game action in nearly three weeks, there were some expected signs of rust.
MORE: VanVleet details bout with COVID-19
VanVleet finished with 12 points, four assists, three steals and one rebound while shooting 2-for-13 from the field and 1-for-7 from 3-point land in 32 minutes of playing time. Siakam tallied 13 points, five rebounds, three assists and one block while shooting 3-for-11 from the field and 0-for-3 from 3 in 31 minutes of playing time.
More than anything else, it was just nice to see the tandem healthy and back on the floor.
2. Will Norman Powell ever cool off?
The answer might be no.
Powell has been jumping out to quick starts as of late, wasting no time to get going. That was precisely the case in this one, going for 21 points on 8-for-10 shooting from the field in the first half. It was the second time this season that he's scored 20-plus points on 80.0 percent shooting or better in a half, and according to ESPN Stats & Info., he's the only Raptors player in the last 25 years to achieve the feat in a single season.
Norman Powell has 21 pts on 8-10 FG at the half tonight vs the Pistons.- ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 18, 2021
It's the 2nd time this season he has had a 20-pt 1st half on 80% FG (both vs the Pistons). He's the only Raptors player in the last 25 seasons to have multiple such halves in a single season. pic.twitter.com/WA3GscXEYM
Halftime couldn't slow down Powell, as the prolific scoring wing went off for another 23 points in the second half to notch a career-high 43 points. It was an insanely efficient game for Powell, who shot 14-for-18 (77.8%) from the field and 8-for-12 (66.7%) from 3.
He has now scored 30 or more points in five of his last seven games.
3. Saddiq Bey stars
Since being inserted into the starting lineup once the Pistons moved on from Blake Griffin, Bey has shined. He was the offensive catalyst behind Detroit's performance in this one, going for a team-high 28 points while corralling a career-high-tying 12 rebounds.
Bang 💥 Bang 💥 @_Beyyy15 pic.twitter.com/sVwfjABbHb- Detroit Pistons (@DetroitPistons) March 18, 2021
Earlier this season, in his first week as a full-time starter, Bey became the first rookie since Michael Carter-Williams in 2014 to take home Conference Player of the Week honours. It's clear that the Pistons got a special player in the Villanova product with the No. 19 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.
4. Kyle Lowry goes cold
VanVleet and Siakam's struggles were to be expected, but the same cannot be said for Lowry.
With two other starters trying to get comfortable on the floor again, the Raptors needed their trusty floor general to step up in a big way offensively. While he did that as a passer, dishing out 16 assists, he couldn't find the mark as a scorer.
Lowry finished with eight points while shooting 2-for-13 from the field and 0-for-7 from 3. Statistically, It was Lowry's worst shooting night of the season.
5. Ex-Raptor revenge game from Delon Wright
Facing off against familiar opponents, Wright torched the Raptors in this one, doing a little bit of everything to help his team pick up the win. Flirting with a triple-double, Wright went for 18 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.
That was tough! 🤮 @delonwright pic.twitter.com/NqPMghjw8z- Detroit Pistons (@DetroitPistons) March 18, 2021
It was one of his best games of the season, and that might not be a coincidence. After being selected by Toronto with the No. 20 overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, Wright spent his first three-and-a-half seasons in the NBA with the Raptors. Back at the 2019 trade deadline, he was a piece in the trade that sent Jonas Valanciunas, C.J. Miles and a second-round pick to the Memphis Grizzlies to get Marc Gasol.
It's safe to assume Wright had this one circled on his calendar.
6. Mason Plumlee's favourite opponent
While it's likely related to the Raptors' lack of depth at the centre position, Plumlee has thrived against Toronto in both meetings this season.
The last time these two teams faced off, Plumlee picked up his second-career triple-double with 14 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in a win over the Raptors. This time around, the Pistons centre was just as impactful, going for an easy double-double of 10 points and 14 rebounds.
It has been a quietly strong season for Plumlee, who is averaging 10.4 points, 9.2 points and 3.8 assists per game while recording both of the triple-doubles in his career this year.
7. Raptors longest losing streak since 2012
According to TSN's Josh Lewenberg, the Raptors' current six-game losing streak is the team's longest since 2012, Kyle Lowry's first season in Toronto.
The last time the Raptors lost 6 straight regular season games: December of 2012 - Kyle Lowry's first season in Toronto.- Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) March 18, 2021
Their starting lineup for that 6th loss: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Mickaël Piétrus, Ed Davis, Jonas Valanciunas. Lowry was hurt.
8. What's next?
The Raptors will return home and have one day off before hosting the team with the league's best record in the Utah Jazz on Friday. The Pistons will also have one day off before traveling to take on the Houston Rockets on Friday.
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