Detroit Pistons vs. Toronto Raptors
NBA Point Spread Pick: Toronto -6.5 points (February 12th 2017)
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The Raptors reached the Eastern Conference finals last year and were actually tied at two-all with the Cavs, before losing. However, the Cavs were blown out in the final two games of the series and any serious thought that the Raptors were somehow in Cleveland’s class should be dismissed quickly by noting that Cleveland’s four wins over the Toronto in that series came by margins of 31, 19, 38 and 26 points!
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Toronto plays host to the Pistons on Sunday at Air Canada Centre. The Pistons come in off a 103-92 home loss to the Spurs on Friday. Detroit has a formidable frontcourt led by center Andre Drummond (14.7-13.8) plus three quality players in Harris (16.4-5.1), Morris (14.2-4.5) and Leuer (11.1-5.6). Harris is the team’s leading scorer but recently, Leuer has been starting. The backcourt features PG Jackson (15.5-5.6 APG), SG Caldwell-Pope (14.1) and Ish Smith (8.4-4.9 APG) coming off the bench. Despite this solid seven-man rotation, the Pistons rank only 24th in points scored at 101.5 PPG, a clear indication that there is little or no depth on the bench.
Depth is an issue often for Toronto, as outside of an All Star starting backcourt featuring DeRozan (27.9-5.3) and Lowry (23.0-4.7-7.0) plus center Valanciunas (12.3-9.9), head coach Casey really can’t count on the remainder of his roster to do much. Making matters worse, DeRozan has fought nagging injuries throughout the year (he recently missed four games with an ankle injury) and as we saw often in last year’s playoffs, shooting slumps appear all too often with Lowry. He’s a workhorse (37.7 MPG is tied for the most) but he’s shooting just 33.3 percent over the past four contests!
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Toronto was 22-8 through Dec 26 but is just 10-12 since. The 32-22 Raptors have fallen three games behind the Celtics in the Atlantic Division and are now also behind the surging Wizards, leaving them with just the No. 4 seed. The winner of the 4 vs 5 matchup gets the Cavs in t shecond round, something Toronto can’t afford! The good news here is that the Pistons are a poor road team (9-18 SU & 10-17 ATS) and don’t figure to be able to match the Raptors basket-for-basket here on their homecourt, where Toronto averages 112.7 PPG. An added bonus is that the Raptors have not played since Wednesday (a disappointing 112-109 loss at Minnesota), their first three-day break of the season. Lay the points with Toronto.