It’s no wonder the Toronto Raptors would rather avoid Detroit in the postseason. Some teams might have a tough time against the Pistons’ reserves, alone.
With their starters getting plenty of rest, the Pistons look to continue their five-year run of dominance at home against the Raptors when the teams meet Sunday.
Having locked up the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, Detroit (56-23) has been able to give its starters a break over the last three games. But the Pistons had lost two straight before holding Washington to 27.1 percent shooting in a 102-74 win Friday night.
Richard Hamilton led all Detroit starters with 30 minutes, but that was only in an effort to help him shake off any rust with the playoffs approaching. He missed eight of the Pistons’ previous nine games to rest a sore hip.
Hamilton was the only Detroit starter to play more than 24 minutes, but the Pistons got a career-high 28 points from reserve forward Jason Maxiell and 52 from their bench overall.
Toronto, meanwhile, can’t afford to give anybody a break. The Raptors (40-39) are trying to avoid a seventh-place finish in the East, which would pit them against the Pistons in the first round of the playoffs. A sixth-place finish would mean a first-round matchup with Orlando.
“That’s the best position for us to be in because, as we know, Detroit has the experience, they have the years, they know what it takes,” Toronto point guard T.J. Ford said. “You’d rather go against somebody with the same amount of playoff experience as yourself.”
Also, the Raptors have been terrible at Detroit in recent years, losing nine straight since an 89-78 win on April 2, 2003. Toronto has been held to 87.8 points per game during that skid.
The Raptors have lost two of three overall against the Pistons this season, but won the last meeting 98-82 on March 26.
Toronto won its second straight Friday night, beating New Jersey 113-85 to eliminate the Nets from playoff contention. After losing four of five, the Raptors have beaten their last two opponents by an average margin of 23.0 points.
“Going into the playoffs, we really have to build on this,” Toronto forward Chris Bosh said. “We really have to have solid defense and we have to move the ball on offense.”
Strong point guard play has been the catalyst for the Raptors’ run. Ford and Jose Calderon have combined for 37 assists and no turnovers over the last two games.
Getting others involved helped Hamilton ease his way back into the flow for Detroit on Friday. He had nine points and matched a season high with 10 assists.
“It felt good to be out there,” Hamilton said. “I didn’t have my shot … so I was trying to get baskets for the other guys.”
Maxiell, meanwhile, is Detroit’s top reserve and is expected to be an important part of the team’s rotation in the playoffs. He is shooting 81.0 percent (17-for-21) from the field in his last three games after struggling with his shot for a long stretch.