It’s a 3-point world and Toronto rules as the Pistons misfire in a 6 of 35 outing

Blake Griffin
Blake Griffin returned from injury to score 15 points, but the Pistons were outscored by Toronto 39-18 from the 3-point arc in their 112-99 loss.
Chris Schwegler/NBAE/Getty Images
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

DETROIT – When Dwane Casey became convinced that success in today’s NBA required surfing the 3-point wave for all that can be wrung from it, he went all in. He converted Toronto to one of the league’s most prolific 3-point teams and is in the process of similarly transforming the Pistons.

Last year’s Pistons shot them in volume – a franchise-record 34.8 per game, good for sixth in the league – but not very well. They were 23rd in accuracy at 34.8 percent. This year’s Pistons shoot them very well – prior to Wednesday’s 112-99 loss to Casey’s old team, they ranked second in the NBA at 38.5 percent – but not in the volume Casey would prefer. Their 32.5 attempts per game rank 17th.

It’s a work in progress and two off-seasons of salary-cap purgatory has made it difficult for the front office to churn the roster to the degree necessary to hand Casey a roster as compatible with his desires as possible.

The loss to Toronto underscored some of the growing pains Casey and the management team understood must be endured. The Pistons matched Toronto’s 35 3-point attempts, but made fewer than half as many 3-point shots. While the Raptors finished 13 of 35, the Pistons were 6 of 35. By night’s end, the Pistons had sunk from No. 2 to No. 4 in 3-point accuracy. Fittingly enough, it was Toronto that vaulted over them, going to No. 3.

“That’s the difference in the game,” Casey said. “We always emphasize the 3-point shot. That’s how important it is. But they did a great job of closing out, using their length and size at all of their positions. They were able to switch everything. We had a lot of open looks we missed, also, but we have to shake their hand and credit them for their closeouts and getting into our guys’ air space before they get could it off.”

The Pistons went into the game with four players ranked among the NBA’s top 30 3-point shooters. No other team had more than two such players. But those four – Tony Snell (sixth), Langston Galloway (10th), Markieff Morris (14th) and Luke Kennard (30th) – combined to make just 4 of 22. Only Kennard beat his norm, making 50 percent, but he was limited to just four attempts.

“We got the right shots,” Kennard said. “Shots we want. Shots we’ve been hitting all year. But we can’t let that affect us on the defensive end and I thought it did a little bit tonight, me included. We’ve just got to keep getting those right shots and keep making the right plays.”

The good news was that the Pistons welcomed both Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin back to the fold. Drummond finished with 22 points and 18 rebounds after missing the past two games with eye inflammation due to an allergic reaction to avocado experienced during last week’s trip to Mexico City. He was fitted for prescription goggles, but chose to wear a different version of contact lenses, Casey said.

Griffin missed the past 1½ games with residual soreness in the left knee injured and surgically repaired last spring, the same malady that sidelined him for the season’s first 10 games.

“Physically, I felt great today,” Griffin said after scoring 15 points in 32 minutes. “I’m hoping to continue that trend and play better. I just need to play better. There’s no excuse.”

The win didn’t come without cost for Toronto, which lost two starters to injury. Marc Gasol grabbed the back of his left thigh in the first quarter and left with a hamstring strain. Norman Powell crumpled to the court in the fourth quarter and had his left arm in a sling after the game with an apparent shoulder injury.

But that still left the defending NBA champions with plenty of firepower. Serge Ibaka stepped in for Gasol and finished with 25 points and 13 rebounds in 31 minutes. Pascal Siakam finished with 26 points and matched the Pistons’ output from the 3-point arc all by himself – in 24 fewer tries. All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry finished with a double-double: 20 points, 10 assists. And O.G. Anunoby added 19 points and eight rebounds.

Mostly, the Raptors won by outgunning the Pistons from the area Casey determined several years ago was the key to building a title contender: the 3-point arc. Some of it was Toronto knocking down shots, some of it was the Pistons missing the same shots – and some of it was Toronto doing a better job of harassing shooters.

“I thought we missed some 3-point shooters,” Casey said. “One thing you’ve got to do with an entire 3-point shooting team is to close out all the way. If you’re short, they’re going to knock it down. They made us uncomfortable on the threes and we didn’t make them uncomfortable with their threes.”

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