Pistons at Raptors Game Preview - March 12, 2014
Regular Season Game #65
Despite a narrow loss to their lone challenger in the Atlantic, the Toronto Raptors remain in control of their destiny as they pursue their second division title.
The sputtering Detroit Pistons will likely have to resolve their road woes to find themselves in the postseason for the first time in five years.
Toronto looks for its 15th home victory in 19 tries Wednesday night when it hosts Detroit.
The Raptors (35-27) had won nine of 11 prior to Monday's 101-94 loss at second-place Brooklyn, trimming their lead to three games. Toronto was 6 of 23 from 3-point range after shooting 43.2 percent from deep over its previous six games. The Raptors, who haven't reached the playoffs since 2008 and won their only division title a year earlier, had hit 10 or more 3-pointers four times during that six-game stretch.
Kyle Lowry scored 21 while DeMar DeRozan was just 3 for 9 with 14 points.
"It was playoff type of basketball with physicality. I've said it forever that we have to get ready to play that style of basketball," coach Dwane Casey said. "We had three big time turnovers because they got into us at the end of the game."
A return home for three games should serve the Raptors well. They've won 14 of 18 in Toronto after starting the season 4-8 there.
Toronto will be looking for its fourth win in five meetings with Detroit (25-39) after a 112-91 home victory on Jan. 8. Lowry's 21 points led four players with at least 16. DeRozan scored 19 on 3-of-15 shooting but was 13 of 16 from the free-throw line.
That marked the last loss during a season-worst six-game skid for the Pistons, who avoided a fourth straight loss and won for the fourth time in 14 games with a 99-89 victory over Sacramento on Tuesday. Josh Smith scored 24 while Rodney Stuckey added 23 to help Detroit move within three games of eighth-place Atlanta.
However, Detroit is still 8-16 over its last 24, with just two of those victories coming against teams over .500.
The Pistons have also dropped nine straight on the road since beating Washington on Jan. 18. It's their longest road slide since losing 11 in a row from Feb. 23-April 5, 2011, with opponents shooting 49.9 percent and scoring 112 or more seven times in that span.
Twelve of Detroit's remaining 18 games are on the road.
"We're concentrating on feeling more comfortable and we're also trying to play for something," Smith said. "I don't want to sit home in April and think about what I could have done."
Smith is averaging just 12.3 points on 35.3 percent shooting over his last eight games in Toronto.