The Detroit Pistons open their eight-game preseason schedule with the first of two games against the Toronto Raptors tonight, who held off Real Madrid in a 102-95 victory on Monday.
In that game, former Piston Amir Johnson continued to show he can play big minutes and contribute, scoring 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting, six rebounds, three assists and two steals for a +19 rating. Third-year guard DeMar DeRozan led the Raptors with 18 points and six rebounds, but reserve guard John Lucas nearly topped him with 16 points on 70% shooting.
Toronto’s Italian import and 2006 #1 pick, Andrea Bargnani, played the most minutes of any Raptor (30:45) but needed 16 shots to score 14 points, while only contributing four rebounds. He has been criticized for years for not playing tough enough down low – this type of game doesn’t help his case, even if it’s preseason. Real Madrid is a quality Spanish league team, but a former #1 pick needs to play better than that against them.
For the Pistons to be successful tonight, it looks like they’ll need to force Bargnani and DeRozan into taking a high volume of shots while limiting their teammates. Those two, along with Lucas, took 39 of the team’s 89 total shots – roughly 44% of the Raptors’ shots – while no other player took more than eight. Limiting the contributions of players like Johnson, Linas Kleiza, Ed Davis and 2012 lottery pick Terrence Ross should help the Pistons win tonight. There’s plenty of athleticism on the Toronto roster, but Detroit might have them matched there.
On offense, Greg Monroe must remain the Pistons’ focal point. He is their most complete player and from the looks of their last game, Toronto doesn’t have a big man to guard him. Bargnani is a perimeter-oriented forward, center Aaron Gray is a back-up masquerading as a starter, and Monroe has at least 10-15 pounds on Johnson.
Guard play will be an important factor, though. Jose Calderon, DeRozan, Lucas and Ross all match up pretty similarly to the Pistons group of guards, both scoring- and athleticism-wise. Real Madrid shot 36% from three-point range on Monday, and that’s one area where Detroit will need to attack that. Rookies Kim English and Kyle Singler will need to be ready to shoot after kick-out passes from Brandon Knight and Rodney Stuckey driving to the lane and drawing defenders.