Dwane Casey’s Detroit Pistons beat the Raptors in all three of their meetings last season. The former Raptors coach did not leave Toronto with any such satisfaction on Wednesday night – not with Pascal Siakam playing like an all-star.
The Raps clobbered Casey’s Pistons 125-113, led by 30 points from Siakam. It was the Cameroonian star’s third time over the 30-point threshold in a Toronto season just five games old, which puts him among the NBA’s early leaders in scoring. He erupted for a stunning 19-point third quarter and was able to rest the entire fourth.
Kyle Lowry added 20 points, while Serge Ibaka and Norman Powell had 19 as the reigning NBA champs improved to 4-1. Fred VanVleet had a 13-point, 11-assist double-double, while OG Anunoby had a 13-point night with eight boards.
Back inside Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena, where he had become the coach with the most wins in Raptors history during his seven seasons in charge, Casey wanted to set some things straight.
“I’ll say this out front, I’m so proud of the team from last year, how they came out and won the championship. Seeing the banner up there is beautiful for the team, for the organization, for the country,” Casey said after his Pistons held morning shootaround, glancing up at the rafters where the Raps new championship banner hangs.
Casey built the Raps into a perennial playoff team between 2011 and 2018, shaped its winning culture and had a hand in developing then-young but now-thriving Raptors such as Siakam – who started 38 games for him in his rookie year. That list also includes VanVleet, Anunoby and Powell. Casey took the Raps to a franchise-record 59 victories in the 2017-18 campaign, and was chosen the NBA’s coach of the year. But he was fired after his Raps were once again ousted in the playoffs by the Cleveland Cavaliers. He insisted during this visit that he is not bitter.
“It irks me when I read the narrative that Dwane is salty,” added the 62-year-old coach, holding court with the Toronto media he got to known well during his time in Canada. “I’m happy for everybody who’s here, I’m happy for the organization. Masai and I talked this summer, Larry Tanenbaum and I, we text back and forth with each other after it was over with, George Cope. So there’s no animosity in my heart whatsoever, I can sleep at night. There’s no saltiness, no pepper, no hot sauce.”
Casey said he texted Lowry right after the Raps finished off the Golden State Warriors in Game 6 – and the all-star point guard texted him right back. He said he congratulated Siakam and VanVleet in person when he saw them around at NBA summer workouts. As for the man who fired him – Raptors president Masai Ujiri – Casey said “we’re good."
The former Raps coach got a standing ovation from the Toronto fans following a video tribute in the first quarter – one of the many the Raps are doing this season to recognize key figures in the franchise’s 25 years.
Casey led last year’s Pistons to a third-place finish in the Eastern Conference, and their first playoff appearance since the 2015-16 season. He’s eager to prove he can strengthen the Pistons as he did for the Raptors.
“That’s exactly why I’ve got a long-term contract, to do exactly what we were doing here,” Casey said. “We’re not there yet. Lots of work to do.”
Casey’s Pistons, 2-3, were without two of their starters on Wednesday – Reggie Jackson (lower back) and superstar Blake Griffin (hamstring). They were led by big man Andre Drummond, who rollicked for 21 points and 22 rebounds. Langston Galloway gave them 17 points, while new Pistons Markieff Morris and Derrick Rose each put up 16.
Siakam was impressive throughout, but his 19-point third quarter was all-star-like. Toronto’s rising superstar from Cameroon exploded offensively, scoring on everything from three-pointers to short jumpers and remarkably athletic driving layups, making 7-foot-1 Piston Thon Maker look a little lost. His coach said he’s getting a little help defensively from Anunoby, but offensively, Siakam is really thriving.
“He made a variety of shots, [faced] a bunch of different defenders, and he’s good man, and turning into like a prime time scorer,” Nick Nurse said. “That three-ball is really going to take him a long way. If they have to press up on that he’s going to slither around them probably.”
Siakam finished the night 13-of-21 from the field, including 3-of-6 from deep. He also added five rebounds and five assists.
“It feels good man,” said Siakam. “I think the more I get in those situations, the more comfortable I get. Having coach trust me to have the ball in my hands, and my teammates also, it feels good.”
With the game well in hand, the Raps were able to get some minutes for little-used Chris Boucher, Matt Thomas and Terence Davis in the fourth. Toronto coach Nick Nurse continues to experiment with ways to get work for the youngsters on his bench.
There was no postgame handshake for the two coaches, but Nurse and Casey waved at one another from their respective ends of the floor this time before leaving for their locker rooms.
The Raps’ next game is Saturday in Milwaukee against the Bucks.