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NBA: Raptors cool off Pistons before all-star break Special

By Aman Dhanoa     Feb 23, 2012 in Sports
Toronto - After a few days off to reflect and some hard practices, the Toronto Raptors rebounded from its Friday loss to NBA’s worst team to cool off one of the league’s better teams of late.
Coming into Wednesday’s matchup at the Air Canada Centre, the Detroit Pistons had won seven of its last 10 games. It was a remarkable run for a team that had only four wins prior to that stretch. But the Raptors took control early and eventually pulled away for a relatively easy 103-93 victory.
“We definitely needed that and I hope it carries over in the second half of the season,” said Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan when speaking to reporters in the locker room after the game. “Detroit has been playing extremely well, so that was a good start for us.”
“We worked on a lot of late-game situations and executing plays. We know we can lock down on the defensive end. It’s all about executing on the offensive end.”
The win ended a four-game losing streak as Toronto’s lengthy seven-game residency 2-5 finished on a positive note. The Raptors held off a late 13-0 run in the fourth quarter and closed out the game – one of the biggest concerns for the team this season.
“I thought we had a good effort from start to finish,” said Raptors coach Dwane Casey speaking to media in a post-game press conference.. “It got a little shaky there towards the end…I thought we got our defensive focus back and we started doing a better job as the game went on with our pick-and-rolls.”
Balanced Scoring
Raptors centre Aaron Gray and forward Amir Johnson guard Detroit s Maxiell closely. Gray had a spiri...
Raptors centre Aaron Gray and forward Amir Johnson guard Detroit's Maxiell closely. Gray had a spirited game, his best as a Raptor, and registered season highs in points and rebounds
John Lucero
Toronto had a balanced scoring attack with six players scoring in double digits led by DeRozan who finished with a team-high 23 points. James Johnson had 15 points, while Amir Johnson added 11 and Aaron Gray had his best game in a Raptors uniform with 12 points and 12 rebounds, both season highs.
“It’s just exciting to win,” said Gray. “We didn’t finish as well as we wanted to, but to win this game going into the All-Star break is going to make us feel a lot better.”
“The four days really helped us. I think we got a lot of good days of practice in. We got some rest and guys got healthy. We came out with energy tonight and really executed the game plan well.”
In the fourth quarter, the Raptors fans had also noticed the great night Gray was having and started chanting “M-V-P” when he went to the foul line. The Pistons decided to purposely foul Gray down the stretch and force him to make free throws of which he made just two of six.
“It is what it is,” said Gray brushing off the questions about his individual performance. It was fun, it was exciting, it was in the game. I really had the emotions going.”
Jose Calderon, who has played some great basketball on the Raptors home stand was the only starter to not score in double-digits but had yet another great night distributing the ball. He had a game-high 15 assists to go along with his six points and eight rebounds. Leandro Barbosa and Ed Davis both contributed off the bench and scored 17 and 10 points, respectively.
Raptors backup point guard Jerryd Bayless looked more comfortable and did not show any ill effects from his strained left ankle that kept him out for two separate stretches this season. He finished with seven points, four assists, two rebounds and even a blocked shot in 20:29 of action.
Missing in Action
Pistons point guard Rodney Stuckey attempts to drive past DeRozan but he had an awful night finishin...
Pistons point guard Rodney Stuckey attempts to drive past DeRozan but he had an awful night finishing with zero points on 0-for-2 shooting
John Lucero
Pistons point guard Rodney Stuckey had a hot streak of his own coming into the game against the Raptors. He was averaging 23.5 points in his last five games but had a miserable outing on Wednesday finishing with zero points, 0-for-2 from the field, and had just a single assist.
Pistons Head Coach Lawrence Frank chalked it up to Stuckey having a bad night, something that has become common for many players in the compressed season.
“In a lockout shortened season you always have to be ready,” said Frank. “You never know what’s going on, there are a lot of games, a lot of minutes, so some nights you are better than others.
“That’s why you have a team. It’s the next man up because no one is going to play great for 82 games, that’s a proven fact and that is why you have a full compliment and a team roster to step up.”
Centre Greg Monroe continued his impressive sophomore season with Detroit and finished with 30 points and 14 rebounds, both game highs. It was just his second 30-point game of his career and 18 double-double this season. Despite his great individual play, he was disappointed with the outcome and thought his team was not as focused as it was during its winning stretch.
Pistons centre Greg Monroe shoots over the top of Raptors centre Jamaal Magloire. Monroe finished wi...
Pistons centre Greg Monroe shoots over the top of Raptors centre Jamaal Magloire. Monroe finished with a game highs 30 points and 14 rebounds
John Lucero
“Tonight we didn’t come out with the focus that we needed to come out with,” said Monroe. “It’s one of those games that you have to be at the highest level of focus. You don’t want to skip this game to get to the (all-star) break, but I think we kind of did that and we have to find a way to stay focused no matter what the circumstances are.
“We’ll have to take this break and regroup and find the same energy and focus that we had in those games that we were winning.”
Rookie Brandon Knight added 16 points, Tayshaun Prince had 14 and Jason Maxiell’s 12 points rounded out the Pistons other double-digit scorers.
The Raptors will have another long respite with the upcoming All-Star break and will have another five days off before playing twice on the road early next week. Toronto will play in Houston on Tuesday and New Orleans on Wednesday before returning home for a four-game home stand starting with the Memphis Grizzlies next Friday.
Aman Dhanoa is a Toronto Raptors beat reporter covering games live and bringing Digital Journal insights from within the locker room.
This article was originally published on Oye! Times
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