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Don’t let Tuesday’s thriller against the Phoenix Suns fool you, this Toronto Raptors team still has dire concerns. 

It was just over a month ago that Fred VanVleet complained about the inconsistencies of this team, the up-and-down pattern they seem to fall into. Every impressive stretch has been bookended by an awful performance that always leads to a scolding from the coaching staff before a bounce-back game. Why, he thought, does this team so constantly need to have these letdown games against lesser opponents? Why must they constantly get yelled at in practice?

It should come as no surprise that it was Dwane Casey’s squad that dealt Toronto this week’s embarrassing loss, a 103-87 blowout to the now 10-31 Pistons. Casey, whose Pistons have been among the league’s worst teams since he took over the organization in 2018, is now 8-3 against Nick Nurse and the Raptors. 

Everything Toronto had done right against Phoenix seemed to disappear Friday. Something was off right from the jump. It wasn’t just that the Raptors couldn’t hit their shots — though they certainly couldn’t — Toronto couldn’t seem to string together any offensive consistency. Detroit jumped into passing lanes, forced turnovers, and packed the paint.

“They kind of threw the first punch. We didn’t really bring the fight in the beginning,” Pascal Siakam said. “I think we played better as the game went on but sometimes just giving a team confidence, it carries through the game.”

The Raptors shot 28.6% from the floor in the first half, missing almost everything they put up save for a handful of OG Anunoby three-pointers. When VanVleet and Pascal Siakam struggled early, Toronto simply had nobody to turn to. The Raptors tried 11 different players, but the bench couldn’t get anyone to step up, getting outscored 46-16 in bench scoring by Detroit.

“We go through that once in a while when there’s opportunities and some pretty good looks for some of those (bench) guys and we’ve just got to hit some of them,” said Nurse whose bench shot 5-for-21 from the field. “If it gets to have one of those nights where nobody hits any of those coming off the bench then you’re in for some tough stretches which was the case tonight.”

When Toronto eventually did get things going it was on the backs of Siakam and VanVleet who came up clutch repeatedly down the stretch. A 13-0 run pulled the Raptors to within eight after the Pistons jumped up as many as 20 in the fourth quarter, their first 20-point lead of the season. VanVleet nailed a trio of three-pointers in the fourth quarter, finishing the night with 24 points and 10 assists on 6-for-21 shooting.

Barnes’ Shooting Woes Continue

Scottie Barnes hasn’t looked right lately. He returned from a one-game absence with eight points on 4-for-13 shooting and zero made three-pointers. It’s nothing too concerning, especially after such an impressive start to the year, but his shooting has taken a step back since returning from COVID-19 protocols.

“He had such a great rhythm going into his COVID bout and it’s just probably working his way out of that,” Nurse said. “It’s gonna take a little bit of game feeling that that stuff for those guys to get their legs back under ‘em and just the speed of the game and things like that.”

Barnes seemed to agree post-game. 

“I would probably just say coming off the COVID break just made my knee hurt a little bit,” he said. “I feel better now but of course just coming back (I) can’t really run as well, jump as well, do certain things as well as I could.”

Champagnie Jumps Up Rotation

Justin Champagnie jumped past Yuta Watanabe and Svi Mykhailiuk as the third man off the bench Friday night, following Precious Achiuwa and Chris Boucher. 

Birch Exits Early

Khem Birch, who started in place of Gary Trent Jr., exited the game early in the first quarter after receiving a blow to his face. X-Rays revealed a broken nose and he’s being flown back to Toronto to get that taken care of, Nurse said.

Up Next: Milwaukee Bucks

The Raptors will conclude their back-to-back Saturday night against the Milwaukee Bucks at 6:30 p.m. ET.