Toronto — Andre Drummond has had his share of less-than-memorable games against the Toronto Raptors and center Jonas Valanciunas.
At home or on the road, it had become the narrative that Drummond simply doesn’t play well when facing the Raptors.
Change that narrative.
Drummond had one of his best games of the season, breaking out for 25 points and 17 rebounds on Wednesday night.
It still wasn’t enough to overcome the Raptors, who surged in the final 10 minutes and took a 96-91 victory over the Pistons at Air Canada Centre. It’s the fourth loss in the last five games for the Pistons (22-21), who fell to 9-15 on the road this season.
Things looked to be business-as-usual for Drummond, who managed just two points and three rebounds in the first quarter against Valanciunas but bounced back with a burst of energy in the second period — and kept it going the rest of the way.
Pistons coach bemoans slow start in 96-91 loss to Raptors. Rod Beard
“Andre put up good numbers but in the second and third quarters and into the fourth, he was good defensively,” coach Stan Van Gundy said.
He looked like he was going to lead the Pistons to an unlikely come-from-behind win, but made critical errors on consecutive possessions. They resulted in 3-pointers by Kyle Lowry (18 points) and C.J. Miles (21 points) during a 12-2 run that helped seal the victory.
“He didn’t start the game with a defensive mentality and he didn’t get up on the two pick-and-rolls late,” Van Gundy added. “It’s unfortunate because we fought really hard to get back into the game and to have two plays like that where you’ve just got to be up and you’re not, it’s unfortunate.
“Twenty-five (points) and 17 (rebounds) is a hell of a night against a really good player and a really good team.”
DeMar DeRozan (17 points) scored the Raptors’ first six points of the game and they built the lead to 15 in the first quarter. The Pistons got their first lead on Anthony Tolliver’s 3-pointer with 1:34 left in the third period, completing a 9-2 spurt, for a 72-71 advantage. Drummond split a pair of free throws to tie it at 73 entering the fourth.
The Raptors (30-13) got a boost from their reserves to start the final period, with Miles hitting a pair of 3-pointers, starting a 19-10 run over the first 10 minutes, which proved to be the undoing.
Pistons guard discusses slow defensive starts that are hamstringing team. Rod Beard
“We had some lapses on the defensive end and not only that, but we were turning the ball over,” said Avery Bradley, who had 19 points. “We weren’t playing guys how we were supposed to defend them going through walkthrough.
“They just made some plays down the stretch and we weren’t able to make shots and we turned the ball over. Just unfortunate.”
Kyle Lowry (18 points) hit his fourth 3-pointer during the run but the Pistons had an answer with a lay-in by Drummond. But Miles’s 3-pointer and two free throws from Valanciunas (17 points and 16 rebounds) helped push the lead to 92-83 at the 2:23 mark for the Raptors, who had lost three of four.
Bradley had two 3-pointers in the final two minutes, but they never got closer than three. Bradley finished with 19 points and Tobias Harris 12, but beyond Drummond, the starters struggled to score, combining to shoot 29 percent (14-of-48) from the field. Bradley was 8-of-19 from the field and Harris 4-of-13.
Drummond, despite the defensive issues, had good production against Valanciunas and changed that narrative.
“I play him like I play anybody else. I don’t plan (differently for him). I watch film and come out and play the best I can,” Drummond said. “He’s a great player and has the ball in the post a lot too so it’s going to be a tough matchup guarding him in the paint every possession.”
Here are some observations from the Pistons-Raptors matchup:
■ Reggie Bullock started the game, but went 0-of-3 in the first half and went to the bench in the second quarter after getting his third foul. Tolliver started the second half in Bullock’s place, along with the usual starting lineups.
■ With rookie Luke Kennard recovering from a thumb injury, Van Gundy looked to Langston Galloway to provide a lift. Galloway responded with his best game in a month, contributing 11 points, with three 3-pointers. Galloway played 17 minutes and was efficient, hitting 4-of-6 from the field.
■ The Pistons had a lackluster first quarter, dragging their way into a 31-18 deficit, hitting only 6-of-20 from the field. They bounced back, going 14-of-25 (64 percent) in the second period, behind a boost from Boban Marjanovic, who had six points in the quarter. Marjanovic finished with seven points and six rebounds in 10 minutes.
■ Ish Smith struggled from the field, going 1-of-12 and finishing with three points, five rebounds and five assists in 31 minutes.