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Poor shooting dooms Toronto Raptors against NBA-worst Detroit Pistons

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The combination of a tough shooting night team-wide and an opponent still smarting from a nasty beatdown was too much for the Toronto Raptors to overcome.

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The Raptors hovered around the 30% shooting mark all evening Friday, while the host Detroit Pistons looked nothing like the team that were blown out by 46 points by the Chicago Bulls three nights earlier and those two factors were more than enough to swing this one in Detroit’s favour.

The Pistons were in control for most of the first three quarters and only a push by the Raptors in the fourth got it even close as Detroit held on for a 103-87 win.

Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby, the guys who are supposed to lead this offence, combined for 61 points.

The remaining eight players who saw the court for the Raptors combined for just 22 points and that just wasn’t enough.

But no one outside of Chris Boucher who had 10 points on 3-of-6 shooting even got close to 50% shooting from the field on the night.

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Canadian national team member Trey Lyles came off the bench for the Pistons and gave them 21 points and seven rebounds, two steals and two blocks.

Rookie and first overall pick Cade Cunningham had 15 points, five assists and seven rebounds for a nice all-around game.

VanVleet led Toronto with 24 points and 10 assists but was just 6-for-21 on a tough shooting night. Pascal Siakam had 21 and 12 rebounds in a losing cause as well.

The Raps had no time to dwell on the loss against the NBA’s worst team, as the they jumped on a plane and headed to Milwaukee where they will take on the defending champs in a tough back-to-back.

A BIG LOSS EARLY

It happened relatively early and it had a lasting effect on the Raptors for the remainder of the game.

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Khem Birch stayed glued to Pistons wonder kid Cunningham as he navigated the paint under the basket on one side and out the other. As he turned for the reverse layup his elbow came up and caught Birch flush on the nose.

The blood started and Birch’s night ended as he went back to the locker room for X-rays.

Birch isn’t one of the Raptors big three or even big four but he is instrumental in what they do and his absence was felt.

Gone were the screens and one of VanVleet’s comfortable pick and roll partners. And gone was a lot of the Raptors offence that Birch helps set up.

“It’s certainly a big part of what we do,” head coach Nick Nurse said of Birch’s solid fundamental skillset. “ Kind of keeps the offence moving. He’s a reliable screener. He’s also pretty alert when there’s a play to be made for him. He’s getting his share of offensive rebounds or at least tips to keep the ball alive, as well. He just kind of takes what comes to him. It’s good to have one of those guys out there that can do the other things on offence to keep us rolling.”

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Well Birch left four minutes into the game and the Raptors offence died a little with that departure.

Now give the Pistons credit. We’ve seen a Dwane Casey-coached team enough to know that the opponent is in for a physical night and the young Pistons weren’t shrinking from the contact.

But without Birch who revels in that physical play and without him doing the little things that make the offence go the Raptors shot a woeful 28% from the field in the first half and dug themselves a 13-point deficit at the half because of it.

There was no word on any results from Birch’s X-rays at press time.

CASEY STILL HAS TIES

Dwane Casey is in his fourth season with Detroit but the former Raptors’ head coach doesn’t have to go too deep into the memory banks when he’s asked about the current crop of Raptors that came up under his watch.

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Casey was asked about VanVleet and his All-Star chances and not surprisingly gave his former player a glowing endorsement.

“He’s become Kyle Lowry,” Casey said giving VanVleet the highest compliment a Toronto point guard of this generation could receive. “He’s a clone of Kyle. Same body type, same savvy leadership. I’m proud of him, from where he’s come, from to where he is, it’s a huge leap what he’s done, but he’s been that way. “He’s been a winner in college, in high school,” Casey said. “And then when he first walked in and training camp, and we’re trying to decide whether to keep them or not. He showed it then, in training camp. So he’s earned every bit of what he’s getting and what he’s doing and we just hope it’s not you know, tonight, but he should be an all star.”

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Casey also had kind words for Siakam and his push for what would be his second All-Star honour.

QUICK HITS:

The Raptors got Scottie Barnes back for this one after a one-game absence but Gary Trent Jr. remained sidelined with that left ankle issue … Barnes wasn’t a definite to play. Nurse said pre-game the plan was to make him active for the game but whether he played or not depended on his pre-game workout. At one point Nurse suggested Yuta Watanabe would probably be making his second start suggesting he wasn’t overly optimistic Barnes would be ready to go. Clearly the pre-game workout went better than expected because Barnes was in the starting lineup.

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