| The Detroit News
With the Pistons and Toronto Raptors both missing players because of injuries and COVID contact tracing, their matchup didn’t seem to have much flair. The Pistons were missing their top five leading scorers this season, but still played their most entertaining game yet.
The backups had a record-setting performance — with a pair of triple-doubles — and dispatched the Raptors, 129-105, on Wednesday night at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida, where the Raptors are playing their home games this season.
Mason Plumlee had 14 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists and Dennis Smith Jr. 10 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists, as the Pistons had two players achieve the rare feat in the same game for the first time since 1964, when Donnie Butcher and Ray Scott each had a triple-double.
It’s the 13th time teammates have had triple-doubles in NBA history. And it came when the Pistons were without leading scorer Jerami Grant (quad injury), Josh Jackson (illness) and Delon Wright (groin), along with Blake Griffin (not with team) and Derrick Rose, who was traded last month, is as remarkable as anything else.
“That was really special,” coach Dwane Casey said. “It was an excellent team win. I didn’t think we had a snowball’s chance with all our guys out.”
Lost in that history was Wayne Ellington’s season-high 25 points, including eight 3-pointers, and a season-high 20 points from Rodney McGruder and 20 points from rookie Saben Lee.
The Pistons (10-25) got off to a slow start, falling into a 13-3 deficit in the first three minutes. Ellington got his shot going and lifted the Pistons in the first quarter, with three 3-pointers. His third, at the 8:15 mark of the first quarter, started a 19-6 run, with seven points from Plumlee, for a 25-19 lead.
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The Raptors (17-18) were without five of their rotation players and five coaches, including head coach Nick Nurse. They answered with a 12-6 spurt, with six points from Norman Powell (36 points) and five more from Chris Boucher (18 points).
The Pistons bounced back and finished the period with a 12-4 run, for a 43-37 lead after the first quarter. They added the first seven points of the second quarter, with a 4-point play from Ellington and four points from Lee, pushing the lead to double digits. McGruder scored eight straight Pistons points and they kept the momentum going.
The Pistons blew the game open in the third quarter, with a 15-2 stretch, pushing the lead to 18. Svi Mykhailiuk (17 points) had a 3-pointer and Ellington had three more 3-pointers in the run to keep the Raptors at bay.
“Everybody was ready to throw Wayne out with the bath water,” Casey said, “but one thing about shooters is that they don’t forget how to shoot.”