Raptors fend off Pistons to tie franchise win mark

Raptors forward Terrence Ross (right) steals the ball from Pistons guard Rodney Stuckey on Sunday...

Raptors forward Terrence Ross (right) steals the ball from Pistons guard Rodney Stuckey on Sunday afternoon in Detroit. (Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY Sports)

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:36 PM ET

You wouldn’t put this one in the ‘get-well category’ for the Raptors, but so few of their wins lately have been.

With two games left to play before the Raptors get their first taste of playoff basketball in six years, there seems to be as many signs of concern as there are signs of optimism for this team.

But through all the hand-wringing, the Raptors continue to find a way to win.

Sunday, despite some newfound rebounding woes, not to mention a pooched 18-point lead, the Raps found the wherewithal to pull out a 116-107 win over Detroit, a team that is playing out the string and is as loose as any you’ll find in the NBA.

With the victory the Raptors matched the franchise high for wins in a season with 47 and have two games left to improve on that. Twice previously the Raptors have finished a season with 47 wins.

Things got rather tense midway through the third quarter as the Pistons closed the gap. Leading by just two, the Raptors lost the services of point guard Kyle Lowry with 5:51 to go in the game.

Lowry left with what was, at that time, a team-high 28 points. DeMar DeRozan surpassed it with 30, 14 of those points coming in the final frame.

DeRozan knew, just as he has known on so many other nights this season, when to turn it on and was there when the team needed him most.

“I had to,” DeRozan said. “Kyle got it going when I went out for that couple minutes. I understood that for us to win the game I had to step up, just try to make plays for us and get a couple easy baskets.”

Head coach Dwane Casey has seen this show before.

“He really carried us down the stretch,” Casey said of DeRozan. “He’s been doing it all year, it’s why he’s an all-star. He did a great job of managing the game, picking his spots, being aggressive. Losing Kyle hurt us a little bit but I thought that’s when DeMar really took over.”

Finding ways to win when it looks like a game might be going the other way is certainly one area of optimism the Raptors will take into the playoffs, but it’s not all sunshine and puppy dogs right now with the team.

Sunday was another example of the Raptors getting pushed around in the paint. The Pistons outrebounded them 55-40, with a 21-8 edge in the offensive-boards department.

A healthy and mobile Amir Johnson would go a long way to addressing that need and Casey knows it.

“We definitely do,” he said when asked how desperately they need a healthy Johnson back. “Any time anybody gets 21 offensive boards tells all of our bigs there’s a need. It’s timing, it’s grit, it’s anticipation and a lot of those things that we didn’t have. They basically manhandled us in the paint and we’ve got to better than that.”

Coming into the game it was the defensive slippage that was of most concern and while the Raptors held Detroit to just 41.7% shooting, the Pistons also scored 107 points which is way too many for a team that has struggled as much as Detroit.

Casey, though, was most concerned with the beating his team took on the glass.

“The 100 points doesn’t’ bother me in a possession game like that; that doesn’t bother me as much as the percentage,” he said. “The thing that bothers me most is the rebounding, them kicking our butt in the paint, the physicality and taking advantage of us that way. That’s all we’ve been talking about and it’s something we have to correct or it’ll be a short stint in the playoffs.”

The Raptors have exactly two more games and as many as three more practises depending on when they open the playoffs (either Saturday or Sunday) to get it right.

They headed back to Toronto on Sunday night and will take on Milwaukee Monday before a travel day Tuesday for the season finale in New York against the Knicks on Wednesday.

GIF: DeMar DeRozan posterizes Kyle Singler on Twitpic


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