'We've got to be better': Poor defense, 3-point shooting doom Pistons

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Detroit — The Pistons got two of their big pieces back, but it didn’t make much of a difference.

After being shorthanded for the last two games, Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin returned to action on Wednesday night. But the defense still was a concern.

The defending champion Toronto Raptors took the lead midway through the second quarter and didn’t give it up as they showcased their superstar, Pascal Siakam, in a 112-99 victory over the Pistons at Little Caesars Arena.

BOX SCORE: Raptors 112, Pistons 99

Drummond had 22 points and 18 rebounds, Derrick Rose added 16 points, five assists and four rebounds, and Griffin had 15 points and four assists for the Pistons, who have lost three of their last four games and fell to 11-17.

“It’s never a great mood after a loss. I think everybody’s just a little frustrated … We’ve got to be better,” Griffin said. “I’ve got to be better, for sure — first of all, I think it starts with me. I think for the most part, guys stick together on this team."

Pistons' Blake Griffin trips up and runs into Raptors' Marc Gasol in the first quarter of the 112-99 Toronto victory at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Michigan on December 18, 2019.

The Raptors (19-8) jumped to a double-digit lead and looked to be in control entering the fourth quarter with a 96-79 lead. The Pistons started the period with a 17-9 run and trimmed the lead to single digits for the first time since early in the third quarter.

Rose and Svi Mykhailiuk had six points apiece in the run and Drummond added five points, including an alley-oop from Bruce Brown (12 points). The Raptors answered with a jumper from Serge Ibaka (25 points and 13 rebounds) and a 3-pointer from Siakam (26 points) and stretched the lead back to 14 points with 1:58 remaining.

Defensively, the Raptors looked to focus on Drummond and Griffin and allow the Pistons to settle for 3-point shots. The plan worked, as the Pistons were just 6-of-35 (17.1 percent) from beyond the arc, where they rank second in the NBA at 38.5 percent.

“We had to spring out there and contest them. For the most part, we were flying out there pretty hard and they probably had some they were hoping to make,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “So, we got fortunate as well, but we were, for the most part, doing our best to challenge them.”

The Raptors were 13-of-35 (37.1 percent) from 3-point range, for a 39-18 margin on 3-pointers that proved to be a separator.

More: Dwane Casey takes no credit for Pascal Siakam's rise: 'He did that himself'

“That’s the difference in the game. We kept them to 42 percent from the field and we also emphasized the 3-point shot and that’s how important that it,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “But they did a great job of closing out, using their length and size in all their positions, they were able to switch everything.

“We had a lot of open shots we missed also. We have to shake their hands and credit them for their close-outs and getting into our guys’ air space before they could get it off. They did a good job.”

The Pistons started 6-of-7 from the field in the first quarter, with back-to-back baskets by Drummond and Griffin, for an 8-5 advantage. Kyle Lowry, who had a triple-double with 20 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, countered with a 3-pointer and Siakam made a jumper to take the lead.

The Raptors steamed ahead with a drive and a dunk from OG Anunoby (19 points) and Siakam added another 3-pointer during a 14-5 run. Griffin had back-to-back baskets to get within 21-19.

The Raptors finished the quarter with a 3-pointer by Siakam with 1.3 seconds left and took a 30-29 lead.

Here are some other observations from Wednesday's loss:

► The Pistons got a scare when Christian Wood sustained a left knee strain in the second quarter. Wood was driving to the basket on the play and looked as if he slid on the court and his knee buckled. Wood was down for a minute and grabbed for his knee before hobbling to the locker room. He didn’t return in the second half.

► In the fourth quarter, Drummond had a highlight-reel block on a dunk attempt by Siakam. Drummond was in the paint and Siakam went up with two hands and a head of steam, but Drummond stood his ground and knocked the ball out of his hands. Siakam landed awkwardly and the Pistons got the loose ball and went in transition the other way.

► Four technical fouls were called in the game: one each against Griffin, Drummond, Siakam and Lowry. Most were players questioning calls or non-calls and the officials seemed to have an itchy whistle on calls, not giving players the typical leeway in trying to have a conversation.

► As has become customary, the Raptors brought a significant fan base from Toronto. Throughout the game, there were audible “Let’s go, Raptors!” chants when the Raptors had built a double-digit lead. There were dozens of Raptors fans wearing jerseys and a significant increase in noise level during breaks.


Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard