Game Preview: Pistons Fly into Toronto, Battle Raptors in Season Opener

Tonight the Detroit Pistons (0-0) will try to start their 2016-17 season on a winning note, as they take on the Toronto Raptors (0-0) at 7:30 US EST at Air Canada Center in Toronto, Canada aka Jurassic Park. 

Probable Starting Lineups

Detroit Pistons

PG: Ish Smith

SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

SF: Marcus Morris

PF: Tobias Harris

C: Andre Drummond

Toronto Raptors

PG: Kyle Lowry

SG: DeMar DeRozan

SF: DeMarre Carroll

PF: Patrick Patterson

C: Jonas Valanciunas

Newly acquired Ish Smith will replace Reggie Jackson at starting point guard on opening night. Reggie Jackson is recovering from Platelet-Rich Plasma treatment in his knee and thumb. Optimistic reports state Jackson should be available by mid-November but either way, the timetable is unknown. Until Jackson returns Ish Smith will be the Pistons primary ball handler in SVG’s pick-and-roll offense. 

Luckily, Ish Smith does have extensive experience as a starter. Last year Smith started 50 games for the troubled Philadelphia 76ers with averages of 14.7 points, 7.0 assists, 4.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 0.8 three pointers and 2.6 turnovers. Smith’s biggest drawback however, is his historically poor shooting. During his career, Ish has shot 40.1% from the field while shooting 29.8% from beyond the arch. During the preseason Ish posted solid numbers averaging 7.7 points and 5.3 assists. Other than Ish Smith, the Pistons will return the same starting lineup from last year. 

Notably coming off the bench will be 6th-Man Stanley Johnson (SF), Jon Leuer (PF) and Aron Baynes (C). Piston.com writer Keith Langlois confirmed Baynes will play despite a broken nose.

The Toronto Raptors are coming off their best season in franchise history and their Coach Dwane Casey (.533 winning % in Toronto since 2011) expects the club to get right back to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Toronto Raptors are coming off their best season in franchise history and their Coach Dwane Casey (.533 winning % in Toronto since 2011) expects the club to get right back to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Last year, the Raptors were 56-26 and finished 2nd in the Eastern Conference standings while having one of the best home court advantages (4th in the NBA in attendance) in the league. However, under Stan Van Gundy, the Detroit Pistons usually play pretty well against “The North.” Pistons are 3-4 since SVG took over. Unfortunately, the last time the Pistons played in Toronto, they did not impress.

In January of 2015 (Pre-Tobias Trade), the Raptors defeated the Pistons 111-107. In 27 minutes, Andre Drummond only had 11 points (1 of 9 free throws) and 12 rebounds. Reggie disappointed with 13 points and 1 assist in 27 minutes. On the bright side, KCP led the Pistons with 15 points and Aron Baynes posted a near double-double in 20 minutes with 11 points and 7 rebounds. Aron also led the Pistons in +/- with +14. Although the Pistons’ stars struggled, the team still scored 107 points. Therefore, we must look to the defense to see why they lost.

Defensively, the Pistons could not stay in front of the Raptors All-Star backcourt. Lowry and DeRozan drove to the basket at will and were forced to shoot many free throws. They did not miss many. DeRozan and Lowry combined to shoot 22-27 from the charity stripe. As usual, DeMar DeRozan played very well against the Pistons.

DeRozan had a game high 29 points on 10-21 shooting, 9-10  free throws with 4 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals in 33 minutes. Kyle Lowry struggled shooting (4-15) but still tallied 18 points (9-12 free throws). Off the bench, backup point guard, Corey Joseph, added 16 points. Missing from this game was Raptors’ “X-Factor” DeMarre Carroll. DeMarre missed the game due to injury (knee and foot) but he will play tonight with a minute restriction.

The self proclaimed “Junk Yard Dog” missed 56 of 82 games last year, and he is still trying to get healthy. While playing 70 games for the Atlanta Hawks in 2014-15, Carroll posted solid offensive numbers (12.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists in 31 minutes per game) while often guarding the opposing team’s best player. That offseason, DeMarre cashed in on his solid play when he signed a four-year, $60 million contract to play for the Raptors. At this point, DeMarre and the Raptors are just hoping he can stay healthy.

The biggest question the Raptors faced going into the 2016 season was: who is going to replace Bismack Biyombo? Last year, the Raptors had one of the best center duos in basketball with Biyombo and Jonas Valanciunas. Therefore, Biyombo’s departure for the Orlando Magic leaves a huge space in the middle. The Raptors hoped newly acquired ex-Celtic, Jared Sullinger, would help fill that space, but it was just reported he will extended time.

Patrick Patterson will likely replace Sullinger in the starting lineup. Terrence Ross (knee) will be ready to come off the bench and the Raptors are still hopeful Lucas Nogueira (C) can play.

Featured image: Mike Mulholland/MLive.com

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