Pistons' Casey out to dispatch Raptors again
The Detroit Pistons didn't have to work too hard in the first game of a back-to-back. Coach Dwane Casey knows it will be a different story when they face his former team at Detroit's Little Caesars Arena.
The Pistons hammered the short-handed Cleveland Cavaliers on the road 129-93 on Saturday. They return home to face the team with the Eastern Conference's second-best record, the Toronto Raptors, on Sunday.
"We played as well as we expected," Casey said. "I wouldn't put anything into the amount of points or the point differential. I promise it's not going to be that type of game tomorrow."
Detroit opened up a 33-point halftime lead and was never threatened in the second half, allowing Casey to rest his regulars. None of his starters played more than 27 minutes.
"Our guys came out with a professional approach," he said. "We accomplished what we wanted to do."
Reserve swingman Luke Kennard reached double digits for the seventh time in 10 games as he scored 26 points. Kennard's point output was two shy of his career high.
"He's growing right in front of our eyes," Casey said.
Kennard hopes the team has the same approach on Sunday.
"We've just got to carry it over," he said in a postgame television interview. "The way we played tonight, we played physical at both ends of the floor. We put together a full game and we just have to carry that over to tomorrow and the rest of the season."
The Pistons pulled out an emotional 106-104 victory in Toronto on Nov. 14, Casey's first game there since he was fired after last season's playoffs. Casey earned Coach of the Year honors but Toronto's playoff flop against Cleveland sealed his fate.
The Raptors have won nine of their last 10, including a 119-117 triumph against Portland on Friday night. Forward Kawhi Leonard hit the game-winning shot with three seconds remaining.
Leonard poured in 38 points while center Marc Gasol supplied 19 points on 9-of-13 shooting along with eight rebounds and six assists.
Gasol's performance was his best since he was acquired from Memphis just before the trade deadline last month. He's averaging 6.3 assists over the last four games.
"He was really good," coach Nick Nurse said. "Looked like, all of a sudden, his rust was immediately gone. He did a little bit of everything."
Point guard Kyle Lowry contributed 19 points and 10 assists. Nurse sees the chemistry growing between Lowry and Gasol.
"I see a twinkle in his eye a little bit," Nurse said of Lowry. "I think the Gasol thing is just unbelievable, the synergy that they have and the plays they can create for each other."
The additions of Gasol and backup point guard Jeremy Lin have made the team more focused. Lin joined the Raptors after reaching a buyout with Atlanta and clearing waivers.
"I think they believe these new guys have made us better," Nurse said. "They're paying more attention than they normally would this time of year in film sessions."
The teams will play once more in Detroit on March 17.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 2, 2019