The Raptors fell to 46-18 on the season Sunday night after suffering a five-point overtime loss to the Pistons, who move to 31-31 with 20 games remaining in the regular season.
Having won two of the first three meetings between the teams, Detroit now wins the season series with Toronto for the first time since the 2011-12 season.
The Pistons were led by 27 points from Blake Griffin while Kyle Lowry led all scorers with 35 points. Ultimately, it wasn't enough as Detroit closed the game on a 10-0 run to secure the win.
Here are some takeaways from the game…
A slow start
With a little over four minutes remaining in the first quarter, Toronto had just scored seven points and trailed Detroit by 13 points - it was the Pistons biggest lead of the night.
Needless to say, it took the Raptors a while to get going.
Toronto managed to get 19 points on the board by the end of the first 12 minutes but did so on 8-for-24 (33.3 percent) shooting from the field and 2-for-7 (28.6 percent) shooting from deep. The Raptors finished the first half shooting 37 percent from the field and 26.7 percent from 3-point range.
The Raptors found a way to make up for a subpar first half in the third quarter - they outscored the Pistons 33-25 in the third thanks to 7-for-12 shooting from beyond the arc in the quarter.
Ultimately, the slow start was too much to overcome; the leads that Toronto built in the second half were not sustainable and Detroit's overtime run would suggest that its opponent ran out of gas.
The Raptors All-Star guard has begun to trend upwards at quite possibly the best possible time.
After scoring a season-high 35 points Sunday night, Lowry is now averaging 19.4 points, 8.2 assists and 4.8 rebounds while shooting 47.0 percent from the field and 39.5 percent from deep in the five games since the All-Star break.
It's not just the numbers, either; it's when and how the 13-year veteran gets them. Down four with just under nine minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Raptors were whistled for two techs in a 10-second span. While the team was clearly flustered, Lowry responded with a 3-pointer that spearheaded a 25-10 Toronto run over the next six and a half minutes.
In the fourth quarter, Lowry again rose to the occasion, sinking a huge triple that kept the Raptors in the game and gave them an opportunity to send things to overtime.
Lowry drills the turnaround triple!#WeTheNorth pic.twitter.com/U7D28eo8Zz- NBA Canada (@NBACanada) March 4, 2019
Lowry scored all seven of Toronto's points in overtime, which is more of a product of the team being underhanded than an indictment on the team.
With Fred VanVleet missing extended time and Kawhi Leonard sitting for load management, the Raptors are down two players that would be on the floor in high-pressure situations. Lowry's re-emergence as a threat in such situations means that he and Kawhi can be much more of a two-headed monster in clutch time when the playoffs come around.
The aforementioned absence of VanVleet and Leonard meant changes in the lineups and rotations.
With Jeremy Lin and Marc Gasol inserted into the starting lineup and Serge Ibaka moved to the bench, things looked noticeably different for Toronto Sunday night. While Lin and Ibaka had rough outings in their roles, both Norman Powell and OG Anunoby were big in their reserve roles.
Powell, who finished with 11 points and five rebounds, scored nine points in the third quarter on 3-for-4 shooting. Along with Lowry, Powell had a big role in the Raptors' run and building a lead in the third frame.
Anunoby finished with 15 points and six rebounds, including the tip-in that tied things up at 100 and send the game into overtime.
Detroit enjoyed 19 points from reserve Luke Kennard, who led the bench unit to a 38-31 advantage over Toronto's shorthanded second unit.
When Leonard and VanVleet return to the lineup and Gasol potentially returning to the second unit, the Raptors reserves could come to be a dangerous group once the playoffs roll around.
The Playoff Picture
With Sunday night's loss, the Raptors fall back to three games behind the first-place Bucks in the loss column and 2.5 games back overall. Milwaukee's road loss to Utah Saturday night gave Toronto an opportunity to close the gap with fewer than 20 games remaining, but its loss to Detroit Sunday put a damper on its hopes to attain the East's top seed.
Conversely, Detroit has won eight of its last 10 games and, at 31-31, is back at .500 for the first time since Dec. 26. The Pistons entered the night as the No. 7 seed in the East but has now moved up to No. 6 as Brooklyn slides down to the 7th seed.
Should the Raptors land the 2nd seed, they will likely face one of the Pistons, Nets, Magic, Hornets or Heat. Of the aforementioned teams, Detroit and Orlando are two of the five teams in the league that have beaten Toronto more than once this season.
The Raptors were shorthanded Sunday and should not put too much stock into losing their first two games to the Pistons this season, but regular-season struggles and Dwane Casey's familiarity with the team would make for an interesting playoff series between the teams.