The undermanned Toronto Raptors, missing five players and seven staff members including head coach Nick Nurse, needed help Wednesday.
Norm Powell and Kyle Lowry, the only two regular starters available, didn’t get it as the Raptors started well but predictably faded fast in a 129-105 loss to the Detroit Pistons.
The Raptors (17-18) were without starters Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby as well as Malachi Flynn and Patrick McCaw because of the league’s health and safety protocols.
Siakam, VanVleet and Anunoby had accounted for 1,603 points this season, 42 per cent of Toronto’s total prior to Wednesday.
Powell scored a season-high 36 points and Lowry added 21. But they got almost no assistance other than Chris Boucher’s 18 off the bench. Aron Baynes had 13.
“No excuses,” said assistant coach Sergio Scariolo, who took charge of Toronto for the second straight outing. “We had, for sure, enough players and coaches to have played a better game than this one.”
Wayne Ellington made eight three-pointers en route to 25 points for Detroit, which made a season-high 20 three-pointers on the night. The Pistons (10-25) had six players score in double figures.
“It was a tough night, a tough night,” said Lowry. “They made a lot of shots. Give them credit.”
Dennis Smith Jr., and Mason Plumlee each had triple-doubles for Detroit with 10 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists for Smith and 14 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists for Plumlee.
Trailing by 18 going into the fourth quarter, Toronto cut the lead to 14. But by then the Raptors tool box was pretty much empty.
The Pistons, who had injury and illness problems of their own, snapped a three-game losing streak. They were 29th in the league prior to tipoff, having lost six of their last seven.
“Looks like We The North tonight!” the Pistons said cheekily on their official Twitter feed.
Pistons coach Dwane Casey, who went 320-238 in his seven seasons at the Raptors’ helm, called it “an excellent team win.” Detroit moved the ball, piling up 39 assists.
“I didn’t think we had a snowball’s chance with all of our guys out I loved the way our guys competed,” he said.
The Pistons were without Jerami Grant, Delon Wright, Killian Hayes and Frank Jackson due to injury/illness. Star forward Blake Griffin is not with the team as it pursues trade options.
Jahlil Okafor and Josh Jackson, both dealing with their own issues, dressed but didn’t play.
It does get any easier for the Raptors, who had to get on a plane for a game in Boston on Thursday. The team can lick its wounds and heal up after that, with the league taking a break for Sunday’s all-star game in Atlanta.
After that Toronto is set to resume play March 11 against visiting Atlanta.
Toronto started Lowry, Powell, Baynes, Terence Davis and Yuta Watanabe. Davis and Watanabe shot a combined 2 for 14 for a total of six points (all from Davis).
The Detroit bench. meanwhile, outscored Toronto’s 56-29 with Boucher (18) and Matt Thomas (11) accounting for all 29 – 19 of which came in the fourth quarter when the game had already been decided.
Toronto’s DeAndre Bembry, Stanley Johnson and Paul Watson Jr., shot a combined 0 for 7.
Lowry said some of his teammates were trying to do too much to help fill the void in the roster.
“We just had too many moving parts and guys trying to do a little bit too much,” he said. “Which I understand.”
The six-time all-star, who attempted just 11 shots, blamed himself for not shooting more.
The makeshift starting five got off to a hot start, leading 8-0. Casey called an early timeout as Toronto hit five of its first seven shots and built a 13-3 lead.
Detroit clawed its way back, scoring its first 15 points all from distance, and led 43-37 at the end of a high-scoring first quarter. The Pistons made 9-of-11 three-point attempts in their highest-scoring quarter of the season.
Lowry played the entire first quarter, collecting 12 points, while Powell finished with 13.
Detroit reeled off the first eight points of the second quarter to build its lead with a 15-0 run that started in the first and rolled into the second as the Pistons went from trailing 37-36 to leading 51-37.
The Pistons, with its bench outscoring Toronto’s 28-8, led 69-60 at the half. Powell (23), Lowry (17) and Baynes (10) combined for 50 of those points in a half that saw the Raptors give up 17 points on eight turnovers.
The Pistons, who came into the game averaging 12.4 three-pointers made per outing, converted 11 in the first half alone. Detroit also scored from in close, collecting 30 first-half points in the paint.
The Raptors cut the lead to 69-64 early in the third but Detroit answered, building the lead to 18 after a 15-2 run. Toronto needed a last-second Lowry three-pointer to end the third quarter trailing 98-80.
It has been a whirlwind for the Raptors since they defeated Houston 122-111 on Friday without Siakam, Nurse and five members of his staff. Sunday’s game against Chicago was postponed and the matchup with Detroit pushed back a day to Wednesday.
Assistant coach Jim Sann was added to the absentees list Wednesday. The Raptors fitted in just one practice since the Houston game.
Lowry said it was a tough time with so many teammates and staff out.
“Of course, you’re anxious just because they’re your brothers, they’re your friends first and foremost,” he said. “You want to make sure they’re healthy.”
Scariolo, Mark Tyndale (assistant video co-ordinator/player development) and Jamaal Magloire (basketball development consultant) manned the Toronto bench.