Game Preview: Raptors vs. Pistons

Holly MacKenzie -

The Raptors are back in Toronto to take on the Detroit Pistons following a disappointing road loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Toronto enters Sunday’s game having had three days off, a rarity in this season’s schedule. Detroit comes to Toronto following a 103-92 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Friday night.

Tip-off: 6 P.M. ET

Broadcast info: TSN/ SN590


We’re talking about practice

There hasn’t been a ton of practice time for Toronto recently. Aside from this three-day break in between games, it’s difficult to get full practices in when games are every other day or when players are injured or rehabbing as they try to return to the court. After making it back to Toronto from Minnesota following Wednesday’s loss, the team took advantage of the time between games.

"As the games keep coming, you don't have time in practice to get your repetition [in]," Casey said. "All the things we've been having trouble with [on defence], those are habits. You can talk about it, you can show it on film, but the only way you can do it and continue to do it is practice to rekindle those habits. That's kind of where we are. Our guys did a good job [on Thursday]. Upbeat, positive. Those are the kinds of things we need now, to rekindle those habits. You lose those kinds of things as the season goes on and you don't have that kind of practice."

As the team has struggled to find its way defensively this week’s practice sessions have focused on detail on that end of the floor.

"Not letting guys cut to where they want to cut," Casey said. "Forcing the post-ups out, pick-and-roll defence, getting into the body, a lot of different things is what we worked on."

Lowry looking for Valanciunas

Toronto’s backcourt combined for 50 points in Wednesday’s loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. When Kyle Lowry watched game film, however, it was the play of big man Jonas Valanciunas that stood out to him.

“Honestly in the Minnesota game I felt like we went on a seven-minute stretch where I should have gotten him the ball three or four times where me and DeMar were missing shots,” Lowry said. “After I watched the game film I felt like I should have gotten him the ball and I just didn't.”

Valanciunas scored 19 points against Minnesota without a single miss from the field. He was 7-for-7 from the floor and 2-for-2 from the free throw line in 26 minutes. The backcourt is a huge part of Toronto’s offence, but Lowry’s point guard instincts have him looking inside, especially when Valanciunas has it going.

“We relied on so many jump shots,” Lowry said. “We relied on me and DeMar too much. I think we really should have, a couple of times, thrown it in the post.”

Attention to detail

Much has been made of Toronto’s defence over the past six weeks. As the team has shuffled through injuries and dropped some games late, it’s been for good reason. With DeMar DeRozan back on the floor, the team is looking to hone in on its defensive intensity.

“Late game mistakes,” DeRozan said of what has been ailing the team. “Giving up leads late in games. Defensive mishaps that’s costing us games. The last few minutes of games have really gotten away from us, especially on the defensive end.”

With the All-Star break nearing and less than 30 games remaining in the regular season, DeMarre Carroll knows how important it is to get these things taken care of now. April might seem awhile away, but the time will fly.

“Especially going into the playoffs, we’ve got to clean those things up,” Carroll said. “That’s what it comes down to, physical plays and details in the last minute. I feel like we’ve got to be on the same page, communicate better. It’s not necessarily the offence, it’s the defence. We’ve got to be in our spots. One guy can’t take a play off, we’ve got to do it collectively. If we can do that, we can come up with some of these late wins.”

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