The Toronto Raptors fall back below .500 after suffering a 129-105 loss at the hands of the Detroit Pistons, who entered the night on a three-game losing streak.
Detroit was led by 25 points from Wayne Ellington, who tied a career-high with eight made 3s in the game, while both Mason Plumlee and Dennis Smith Jr. recorded triple-doubles. The Pistons rode the momentum of a red-hot first quarter to knock down a season-high 20 triples to cruise to a dominant win.
The shorthanded Raptors struggled throughout the night, as only six players scored. Norman Powell led the way with 36 points and Kyle Lowry added 21 but Toronto was clearly impacted by its missing starters - on both ends of the floor.
For more on how it went down, here are some thoughts on the game…
1. Two shorthanded teams
The injury report ahead of this one was quite lengthy.
Toronto was without five players: starters OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet as well as reserves Malachi Flynn and Patrick McCaw due to the league's health and safety protocols. In addition to the five players, the Raptors were without several coaches, including head coach Nick Nurse.
Detroit's injury report featured seven players, including three of their leading scorers in Jerami Grant, Josh Jackson and Delon Wright.
2. A different look to start
With Anunoby, Siakam and VanVleet out of the starting unit, the Raptors employed a new starting lineup of Lowry, Powell, Terence Davis, Yuta Watanabe and Aron Baynes.
Just how new was that lineup?
Coming into Wednesday night, the five had not played together at any point of the season, according to NBA.com's lineups data . The unit made an immediate impact, getting out to an early 13-3 lead before things turned into Detroit's favour…
3. Detroit's big first quarter
The Pistons responded to an early deficit in a major way, going on a 22-6 run over a four-minute span in the first quarter.
This run sparked a big first quarter for Detroit, a team that is by no means considered an offensive juggernaut, especially without major offensive contributors in Jerami Grant and Josh Jackson. Still, the Pistons used very impressive ball movement and 3-point shooting to score a season-high 43 points in the frame.
In the first quarter, Detroit assisted on all 16 of its made field goals and shot 9-for-11 (81.8 percent) from beyond the arc.
The Pistons' 43 points tied the most allowed by the Raptors in any quarter this season. For even more perspective, nine triples are the most in a first quarter in 25 years for Detroit and the 43 points are also the most scored by the team in 23 seasons.
4. Powell, Lowry, Boucher and Baynes step up
In the absence of three key contributors, the above four did their part to step up.
Powell fell one shy of a career-high, scoring 36 points on 14-for-20 shooting from the field, including 5-for-8 from deep. Powell continues his stellar play in a starting role and stepped up on a night where his contributions were needed.
15 mins- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) March 4, 2021
- Norm pic.twitter.com/eRNln1B74e
Lowry finished with 21 points and six assists in 35 minutes of action and, per usual, was the heart and soul of the team while Baynes was the only other starter in double figures with 13 points on 4-for-7 shooting in 24 minutes.
Boucher came off the bench to score 18 points on 5-for-11 shooting in just under 25 minutes
5. Double triple-doubles
Not one but TWO Pistons players finished the night with a triple-double.
Mason Plumlee, who had six assists in the first quarter, finished the game with 14 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in 28 minutes of action. Newly-acquired Dennis Smith Jr. shot just 3-for-9 from the field but finished the game with 10 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists.
It's not too often you see a pair of teammates record a triple-double in the same game.
6. Wayne Ellington's career night
Ellington sank three of his first four triples in the opening quarter and stayed hot.
Bang Bang! @WayneEllington pic.twitter.com/SS44XMrvT9- Detroit Pistons (@DetroitPistons) March 4, 2021
The 12-year veteran tied a career-high with eight made triples and finished the game with a team-high 25 points in the game.
7. Detroit's impressive résumè
At 10-25, the Pistons are still owners of the East's worst record but their list of wins has become pretty impressive as it includes:
- Jan. 1: Detroit Pistons 96, Boston Celtics 93
- Jan. 8, Detroit Pistons 110, Phoenix Suns 105
- Jan. 16: Detroit Pistons 120, Miami Heat 100
- Jan. 25: Detroit Pistons 119, Philadelphia 76ers 104
- Jan. 28: Detroit Pistons 107, Los Angeles Lakers 92
- Feb. 9: Detroit Pistons 122, Brooklyn Nets 111
- Feb. 12: Detroit Pistons 108, Boston Celtics 102
- March 3: Detroit Pistons 129, Toronto Raptors 105
Toronto was extremely shorthanded, as were some of the other teams on the above list but some of these wins are nothing to scoff at. While it's March, there's no committee for Detroit to impress with this résumè but wins like these are important for the confidence of a young team that's building for the future.
8. What's next?
The Raptors head to Boston to take on the Celtics on Thursday at 7:00 p.m. ET for the final game ahead of NBA All-Star 2021. Toronto is 1-4 on the second end of back-to-backs this season and 0-2 against Boston this season.
See you then.
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