Extra Pass: Gear up for intriguing Pistons-Raptors clash

Published November 13, 2021, 3:00 PMMiguel Flores

The matchup between the Detroit Pistons and Toronto Raptors tomorrow is going to be an interesting one.

Tomorrow’s matchup between the Detroit Pistons and Toronto Raptors could very well end up being a blowout. But blowouts can still be fun to watch, especially with two of the weirder teams in the NBA involved. You can watch this game live at 8:30 am on NBA TV Philippines via Smart’s GigaPlay app and Cignal TV.

The Pistons are weird for all the conventional funky reasons. They’re rebuilding, which allows them to tinker and experiment with pieces a playoff aspirant would not have time for.

Killian Hayes, their lottery pick from last year, has been steadily improving. He's flashing the defense and playmaking scouts knew he would excel in the NBA. The problem with the French point guard is his offense—he’s averaging six points on 30 percent shooting. That’s abysmal but the Pistons can afford for him to keep starting and working out the kinks.

They also have Isaiah Stewart, their other lottery pick from last year. Beef Stew showed signs of becoming a Jason Maxiell-type undersized big last year when he bumped and jumped his way to the rotation to close the season. He earned the starting spot this season but has barely made the most of it as he has struggled to stay out of foul trouble.

Disparate pieces from past NBA Draft lotteries round up this team. They’ve got Josh Jackson playing crucial minutes, Corey Joseph as a backup point guard, and hey, is that Utah legend Trey Lyles soaking up a bench role?

The Pistons have had time over the last few years of languishing at the bottom of the standings. At least this year, Cade Cunningham gave them something to look forward to. The top pick in the 2021 Draft won’t jump out of the screen with speed or leaping ability, and he doesn’t have a bounty of dribble moves, but he makes all the right plays every time down the court with ease. The six-foot-six guard is as smooth as advertised. With his slow start withstanding, Cunningham has come on lately with consecutive solid games.

The Pistons have not had a prospect as good as Cade since they drafted Grant Hill. Optimism, finally, isn’t just fool’s gold in the Motor City.

The Raptors, on the other hand, are weird because they excel when they’re obscure. It’s exactly how Nick Nurse wants them to play.

Play Fred VanVleet and four six-foot-nine guys together? Yes, please. Starting six-foot-ten rookie Dalano Banton at point guard? Sure! Deploy a full-court zone press after every made shot? Easy. Go from running five screens to zero screens the next possession? Slather me with your basketball wisdom, Mr. Nurse.

The 2019 Raptors won the title due in large part to Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry. With both players gone, the Raptors are still chugging along and outsmarting teams that have more superstar talent.

Who needs superstars when you’ve got Steady Freddy VanVleet. He’s the antithesis of the modern NBA star: short, undrafted, and not at all flashy on or off the court. But every game VanVleet shows that he has the biggest onions on the court.

OG Anunoby, the league’s version of Vince Staples, has been playing out of his mind, as well, averaging career highs in minutes, points, rebounds, and assists. The beauty of this Raptors team is that after OG, Fred, and the returning Pascal Siakam, any guy can fill the other two spots on the court on a given night. It all depends on matchups and who’s hitting their shots.

The 2020-21 season was a lost season for the Raptors. While other teams got back to playing in their home courts, the Raptors spent the season playing in Tampa Bay. There’s a huge difference between Ontario and Florida.

Now they’re back to hustling bigger contenders in the East. The Pistons may not seem like a major challenge for them, but this game should still bring out some of the Nursiest Nick Nurse-isms available for his adoring basketball fans.