It was fan appreciation night for the Detroit Pistons faithful at the Palace of Auburn Hills, where their team has fallen short of expectations after an injury plagued year.
The home team did right by their fans. It didn't so anything so silly as beat the Toronto Raptors and thus jeopardize its position in the NBA draft lottery, and it announced a massive rollback on ticket prices: 10 per cent to 50 per cent, across the board, with price-reduction protection should costs go lower still.
Meanwhile, Raptors fans will have to go to the final night of the 2009-10 season to learn their fate after cruising to a comfortable 111-97 win over Detroit, snapping the Raptors' five-game losing string and keeping their playoff hopes alive.
Toronto finishes its regular season at home tomorrow, against the New York Knicks, another lottery-bound club.
The Raptors trail the Chicago Bulls by a half-game in the Eastern Conference. Toronto holds the tiebreaker between the two clubs. The Bulls play tonight against the Boston Celtics and tomorrow against the Charlotte Bobcats.
"You'd like to have the opportunity to [control your destiny]but we missed our chance," Raptors head coach Jay Triano said.
And while it's unlikely the Raptors (39-42) will be rolling back season-ticket prices as penance for a poor season, the team at least gave the impression that it wanted to keep playing this spring in front of an unusually quiet capacity crowd of 22,076 at the Palace.
The Raptors did it with an alert, determined defensive effort, holding Detroit to 39-per-cent shooting in the decisive first half, after which Toronto led 58-46 and never allowed Detroit back into the game. Raptors assistant coach Micah Nori seemed to have every Pistons play called in advance and was able to shout it out and be heard - one reason perhaps Toronto was able to play the kind of defence lacking in a loss to the Bulls at home last Sunday.
The other was the Raptors, who have struggled to score in the absence of all-star forward Chris Bosh (nose), got a career night from Andrea Bargnani who exploded for 33 points - one off his career-high - and seven rebounds, while Amir Johnson, a former Piston who started for Bosh, did get a career-high, finishing with 26 points. The Raptors shot 60 per cent from the floor and counted 37 assists on their 45 field goals.
The Pistons were led by Ben Gordon's 24 points.
"I thought we were solid," Triano said. "We had a few lapses, but we were able to score when we had to. We tried to go Andrea inside because I thought we had a matchup advantage there, and when they switched a bigger guy on to him, he took them outside and the way they played Andrea opened things up for Amir."
The only negative for the Raptors came when Sonny Weems had to be carried off the floor with more than three minutes left, after turning his right ankle. He was taken for X-rays after the game.
Detroit went into last night playing well, having won three of its last four, the lineup bolstered by the recent return to form of veterans Tayshaun Prince and Gordon, who combined for 67 points against the Miami Heat last weekend. No less authority than former Raptors forward Charlie Villanueva guaranteed a Pistons victory on his Twitter.com account.
Villanueva had 16 points off the bench.
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