Detroit Pistons avoid collapse, extend winning streak against Toronto Raptors to six

Detroit Free Press

It’s something about the Toronto Raptors.

Since Dwane Casey was hired as the Detroit Pistons‘ head coach during the 2018 offseason, they’ve dominated their conference foe. The run continued on Thursday, as the Pistons led by as many as 18 points during a close 108-106 victory over the Raptors in Toronto. The Pistons have now won six straight against Toronto, and nine of 12 against them since Casey’s hire.

Casey, of course, coached the Raptors from 2011-18. When asked if there’s anything to his winning streak against his former team, Casey downplayed it.

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“Somebody said something about (me) getting hyped up,” Casey said. “I get a win, I’m hyped. Doesn’t matter who it is.”

It was a chippy game, and Raptors head coach Nick Nurse was ejected late in the third quarter after arguing with a referee over a foul call on Raptors big man Chris Boucher.

Jerami Grant led Detroit with 26 points, Saddiq Bey scored 23 points and grabbed six rebounds and Cade Cunningham added 22 points, 12 rebounds and five assists. Raptors star Pascal Siakam led all scorers with 28 points.

A 3-pointer by Grant extended Detroit’s lead to 86-68 with 4:08 remaining in the third quarter. Afterward, the Pistons went cold. Their next field goal didn’t come until Kelly Olynyk knocked down a midrange jumper with 8:51 to play in the fourth. Precious Achiuwa completed a three-point play for Toronto on the next possession, cutting Detroit’s lead to 94-88 and extending the Raptors’ run to 16-4.

The Raptors got within one point in the final minute of the game, when Achiuwa split a trip to the line with 37.7 seconds left to cut the deficit to 106-105. But Bey clinched the game for Detroit with a tough layup with 14 seconds left, and a block by Cunningham on Gary Trent Jr. with five seconds remaining helped to seal the win for the Pistons.

Achiuwa took one final trip to the line with 0.7 seconds left after getting fouled by Cory Joseph, but split the trip once again and the Raptors were unable to secure his missed free throw.

Cunningham, Grant and Bey continue hot streaks

Entering Thursday’s win, Grant had scored 26 points in each of his two previous games on a combined 20-for-36 (55.5%) shooting. He had been up and down after returning from thumb surgery and health and safety protocols on Feb. 1, but this has been one of his best stretches of basketball this season. Beyond his scoring, Grant’s vision has improved, with four assists Thursday to go with four against the Washington Wizards on Tuesday and he has eight assists in his last two games.

Cunningham settled into the role of Detroit’s No. 1 option on offense during Grant’s absence, but the two players have found a nice rhythm next to each other during the Pistons’ improved stretch of play during the last two weeks. Cunningham entered Thursday averaging 20.2 points, seven rebounds and 5.2 assists over his past five games, and kept his run of strong play going with his seventh double-double of the season.

Bey, too, has been in top form as one of Detroit’s go-to scorers over during the last three weeks. He entered Thursday averaging 18.6 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists on 47.3% overall shooting and 38.6% shooting from 3 in eight games dating back to Feb. 10.

Stewart continues two-way impact

His contributions aren’t always as evident as Detroit’s blossoming trio of scorers, but Isaiah Stewart has been one of the Pistons’ most important contributors this season. It has been especially evident during the past two weeks, as his space-clearing screens (or “highway” screens, as Casey calls them) have made life easier for his teammates, and his rim protection and switch-ability on defense has helped to keep Detroit in competitive games.

He’s averaging a double-double since Jan. 30, and added 10 points, eight rebounds and two blocks in Thursday’s win.

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive Pistons content. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.

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