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Raptors take advantage of struggling Pistons

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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- The Toronto Raptors found an easy way to break a five-game losing streak: Come out strong in the third quarter and watch the struggling Detroit Pistons fold.

Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan scored 21 points apiece as the Raptors outscored the Pistons 36-15 in the third quarter and cruised to a 99-82 victory over the Detroit Pistons at The Palace on Friday night.

Amir Johnson contributed 20 points and eight rebounds, and Jonas Valanciunas supplied 14 points and 13 rebounds for the Raptors (27-45, who had been giving up an average of 106.2 points during their slide.

Toronto shot 60 percent and made 15 baskets, including eight fast-break points, during the decisive third quarter. Detroit's third-quarter woes were not an aberration. It has been outscored by an average of 12.3 points in the third quarter over the last seven games.

"We got some stops and got out and ran," said Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry, who had five of his 11 assists during that span. "That's pretty much how we got our points. We got some fast-break dunks, some easy threes in transition and some layups in transition. That third quarter, we played pretty tough."

Gay and DeRozan combined for 30 points in the quarter, as they took 19 of the team's 25 shots.

"We ran post plays for DeMar," Johnson said. "We know they like to double team and it's our job to come help and give him a release. We know if they're going to double team, it will come back to us for a wide open shot. We've just got to help each other." Jonas Jerebko had 20 points for Detroit (24-49), which has lost 12 of its last 13 and eight straight at home. Rookie center Andre Drummond, making his first start, added 17 points after missing 22 games because of a stress fracture in his back.

"It definitely felt great being out there tonight," Drummond said. "I felt like I didn't miss a beat. I just have to get used to playing with the guys back on the court."

Jose Calderon, Toronto's all-time assists leader who was traded by the Raptors to the Pistons on Jan. 30, had eight points and seven assists in his first game against his former team.

Toronto opened the second half with a 28-7 run, including 16 points by Gay, to take a 22-point lead. Johnson made a layup to give the Raptors their first double-digit advantage, 58-48. Gay converted a lob from Lowry for a dunk and Lowry followed with a fast-break layup after a Kyle Singler turnover, making it 64-50.

Gay then knocked down a pair of 3-pointers, sandwiching two DeRozan baskets, for a 74-52 Raptors lead. The Pistons never got closer than 16 the rest of the way.

"The bottom line is we have to get tired of being embarrassed," Pistons coach Lawrence Frank said. "We're all professionals and you have to get motivated by competition. That's the deal. To come into our building again and be embarrassed like we were, it hurts."

Detroit's third-quarter woes were not an aberration. It has been outscored by an average of 12.3 points in the third quarter over the last seven games.

Johnson and Valanciunas shot a combined 13 of 14 from the field for 28 points in the first half to give the Raptors a 46-45 halftime lead. Toronto trailed by 10 in the first quarter.

"We got off to a slow start and Amir and JV, with their activity and their energy, got us going," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "The second unit changed the game and then the first group jumped in and joined the party."

NOTES: The Pistons were eliminated from the playoffs when Milwaukee defeated the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday. ... Toronto shot 53.7 percent while holding Detroit to 40.8 percent shooting. ... Pistons reserve guard Will Bynum missed his second consecutive game with a right hand strain. ... Detroit plays six of its last nine on the road. ... Toronto had lost four straight at The Palace. ... Frank said he was on the verge of starting Drummond before Drummond injured his back. "This is a transition that was earned by Andre," Frank said. "It wasn't given to him, it was earned. It's unfortunate that he had to miss 22 games." ... Calderon led the league in 3-point shooting entering the game at 46 percent and went 2 for 4 on Friday. Atlanta's Kyle Korver ranked second at 45.6 percent. Calderon's previous career high was 42.9 percent in 2007-08. ... The teams, who will play again in Toronto, have a combined eight rookies on their rosters. ... A '90s theme night at The Palace included a halftime performance by R&B vocal group Color Me Badd and an appearance by TV star Luke Perry.
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