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PREVIEW: Skidding Detroit Pistons host struggling Toronto Raptors in hopes of turnaround

Mar 14, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Toronto Raptors guard Norman Powell (24) drives to the basket against Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine (8) during the second half of an NBA game at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Dwane Casey isn’t sure which players from his former team will suit up on Wednesday.

He is certain that his current team has to give a more determined effort to end its four-game losing streak.

In the Detroit Pistons’ most recent loss, 109-99 at home to San Antonio on Monday, the Spurs led by as many as 23 points. Detroit will host another reeling team, the Toronto Raptors, on St. Patrick’s Day.

“We’ve got to make Little Caesars Arena a special place to play,” Casey said. “Teams can’t come in and think, ‘OK, we’ve got a night off.’ No, you’ve got to come in here and fight for every inch of the court when you come in here.”

That fight was lacking when the Pistons allowed San Antonio to shoot 69.6 percent from the field in the second quarter and take control of the game.

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Detroit lacked the firepower to make a meaningful run in the second half. Its best 3-point shooter, Wayne Ellington, missed the game with an injury. For the second consecutive game, the Pistons shot below 30 percent from long range.

“Guys know what their strengths and weaknesses are,” Casey said. “It doesn’t make sense to jack up 40 threes when you’re shooting 30 percent. Our guys are smart guys. We’re a team that’s got to get out in transition right now. That’s the way we’re going to have to play. You’ve got to manufacture points in some other way until guys develop their 3-point shooting.”

Detroit’s most recent victory came at the expense of the Raptors. The Pistons downed a severely depleted Toronto roster at its temporary home in Tampa, 129-105, on March 3.

A handful of Toronto players, including three starters, have remained sidelined due to the league’s health and safety protocols as the Raptors have lost five straight. The Raptors are hopeful of getting those players — most notably Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby — back in action this week.

“I don’t know what the situation will be,” said Casey, who coached Toronto from 2011-18. “My whole thing is no matter who we play, we’ve got to come out and compete. When things get hard, we’ve got to buckle up. I thought (Monday) we didn’t do that. We took the easy way out.”

The short-handed Raptors have lost their last two games by double-digit margins — 114-104 to Charlotte on Saturday and 118-95 to Chicago on Sunday.

Point guard Kyle Lowry remains optimistic the Raptors can make the playoffs once they return to full strength.

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“When we get guys back, we can play to a level we know we can play to,” he said. “If we have to play a play-in game, we still get an opportunity to do something, but we’re not looking at that. We’re looking to make a run. We’re not far back. We’re just in a tough spot missing our guys.”

In their absence, Norman Powell has become the No. 1 source of offense. He’s scored 30 or more points in four of the last six games, raising his season average to 19 points per game.

The Raptors’ reserve corps hasn’t been able to fill the void of the missing players.

“You’re giving a lot of guys shots and they miss a few and you try somebody else, and they get the same looks and they don’t do any better,” coach Nick Nurse said.

–Field Level Media