Playing for pride may not be as shiny or lucrative as a trip to the playoffs, but the Detroit Pistons (38-42) are still playing for it. While the postseason is out of reach Detroit can still show that next season is one worth watching, especially in tonight’s matchup against the East-leading Toronto Raptors (58-22). The Dinos up North are favored by 4.5 points, which will be the last home game of the season for the Pistons, at Little Caesar’s Arena. If you were looking for one last live glimpse of Detroit’s star players, you will have to wait until next season.
Detroit will be without star forward Blake Griffin (right ankle contusion) and All-Star center Andre Drummond (Achilles). G/F Reggie Bullock (sore knee) is also out after being shut down for the season, meaning rookie Luke Kennard will start in his place. The sweet-shooting guard from Duke scored 18 points on 6/12 shooting in yesterday’s loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. He will have a tough matchup tonight, assuming DeMar DeRozan does not sit out. Anthony Tolliver, who has started the last six games in place of Griffin, has been a bright spot for the Pistons. He has scored double-digit points in eight-straight games, two of which were 25-point splurges. Expect Tolliver to get the nod again tonight. As for Drummond’s replacement, Eric Moreland or Henry Ellenson are likely to fill that gap.
The Toronto Raptors are locked in as the top seed in the Eastern Conference and have little to play for, other than tuning up for the playoffs. Raptors coach Dwane Casey says he does not feel the team needs rest necessarily, but does not hurt either. DeRozan and center Jonas Valanciunas both did not play Sunday against the Orlando Magic, though it is likely that Toronto rests more players tonight.
It was a historic shooting night last night for the Pistons as they hit a team-record 23 3-pointers against Memphis. However Detroit’s defense was porous, surrendering 130 points to the hapless Grizzlies who are one of the worst teams in the NBA this season. Memphis shot 58 percent from the floor and lead by as much as 20 points. Stan Van Gundy was not pleased, calling his team’s defense “horrendous”. That would be putting it lightly.
WORTH WATCHING: Pistons big man Henry Ellenson, a former first round pick for those who have not even seen that name before, should see some extended minutes in these final two games. Ellenson had a very positive game against Memphis, scoring a career-high 17 points on 6/10 shooting, including 4/6 from behind the arc. It was his second-straight double-digit scoring outing. Ellenson had not scored double digits since October 25th against Minnesota.