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Detroit News' Pistons beat writer Rod Beard breaks downs team's 112-107 overtime victory over the Raptors. The Detroit News

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Detroit — Despite what the schedule read, it wasn’t just another regular-season game.

It was at least partly another in the growing grudge matches between coach Dwane Casey and his former team. Maybe it was an appetizer, a sampler platter of what could be if the Pistons and Raptors meet in the playoffs.

In any case, it turned into one of the most fiery and intriguing games of the season.

With a raucous crowd — composed of about as many Raptors fans as home fans — the Pistons overcame an 11-point third-quarter deficit and prevailed in overtime, 112-107, on Sunday evening at Little Caesars Arena. It’s the Pistons’ second win this season over the Raptors, joining the buzzer-beating victory at Toronto as the most exhilarating games of the season.

BOX SCORE: Pistons 112, Raptors 107, OT

Blake Griffin had 27 points and seven rebounds, Luke Kennard 19 points and Andre Drummond 15 points and 17 rebounds for the Pistons (31-31), who claimed sole possession of sixth place in the Eastern Conference playoff race with 20 games remaining.

“It was a tough game. We just kept doing what we’ve been doing this stretch,” Griffin said. “Guys just dug in and everybody contributed.”

Despite gaining ground in the standings, Griffin cautioned against the Pistons getting complacent with just moving up; he gave a reminder that they had dug a hole and were at seven games below .500 after a couple of rough stretches in December and January.

“What have we done? We’ve had a good stretch and a lot of teams have had good stretches,” Griffin said. “Being in the sixth or seventh seed is absolutely nothing to be proud of.  We tricked off two months of basketball.”

Kyle Lowry (35 points, seven rebounds and five assists) pushed the Raptors to an early lead in overtime, scoring their first seven points, for a 107-102 lead at the 2:21 mark.

They didn’t score again.

Griffin answered with two free throws and Reggie Jackson (19 points) added the tying 3-pointer with 1:23 left. Drummond gave the Pistons the lead with two free throws with 46.1 seconds remaining, Kennard added another pair of free throws and Drummond split the final pair with 1.5 left for the final margin.

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Detroit coach talks about team's 112-107 overtime victory over Toronto, which put the Pistons back at .500 (31-31) and vaulted them into sixth place in the Eastern Conference. The Detroit News


“It was a good win today,” Drummond said. “I’m very impressed by our guys, especially the guys who came in and took over while I had foul trouble: Zaza (Pachulia), Thon (Maker), guys who came in, played the game and kept it going until I got back in.”

Drummond had been saddled with foul trouble for most of the game and the Pistons fell behind, 75-64, after Pachulia was ejected for making contact with a referee after arguing a no-call.

Ish Smith responded with a three-point play, sparking a 9-3 run in the final 2:131, with back-to-back baskets by Drummond to finish the period. Kennard hit a 3-pointer and a drive and Glen Robinson III added consecutive baskets to put the Pistons ahead, 82-78, capping the 18-3 spurt.

That sent the crowd into a frenzy, as the Pistons fans tried to outshine the visitors from the north.

“It’s exciting and we’re getting (the fans’) trust. We said a long time ago we were going to have to earn it and our guys found a way to win,” Casey said. “It wasn’t pretty and we made some mistakes down the stretch that were tough but we made up for them with hard play.”

At the end of regulation, Jackson hit a runner with 41.8 seconds left to give the Pistons a 100-98 lead to help stem the tide, but the Raptors (46-18) answered with O.G. Anunoby’s tip-in with 25.6 seconds.

The Pistons had a chance to move ahead but had a shot-clock violation and the Raptors missed a corner jumper from Marc Gasol (13 points, eight rebounds and five assists). 

Observations

 ► As has become custom, the Raptors fans made the trek to Detroit and were a vocal contingent, drowning out the Pistons fans during some free throws and lulls in the action. It’s been going on for years, but it’s still impressive the way that they can pack the arena for Pistons games and become so involved and be seen and heard as much as they are.

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Pistons center reflects on team's 112-107 victory in overtime over the Raptors where he finished with 15 points and 17 rebounds. The Detroit News

► Drummond got into foul trouble early and forced Casey’s hand in trying to juggle the rotations. It forced Zaza Pachulia to play early minutes and for Thon Maker to play a bit out of his comfort zone, with Griffin on the floor. Drummond got his fourth foul at the 11:43 mark of the third quarter and had to go to the bench and he got his fifth at the 10:32 mark, which put them in a bind. When he finally returned, the Pistons’ comeback started.

► Pachulia had been frustrated by some foul calls early in the game and went back-and-forth with the officials. When he felt that the officials missed a call on him, he went and tried to protest vehemently, but bumped the referee — and got two technical fouls and an ejection. He was frustrated and could have gotten away with just one technical foul, but the bump triggered the ejection.

► Kennard, who had six 3-pointers in Saturday’s win, added five more 3-pointers in the win Sunday. He’s finding his shooting stroke and is looking aggressively for his shot, which is helping the second unit. Beyond that, Casey is looking to Kennard to finish games, which is more a tribute to what his contributions are.

► Ish Smith keyed the Pistons’ comeback, bringing energy when the Raptors built their lead. His change of pace helped jump-start the effort and he finished with nine points and eight assists in just 20 minutes.

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

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