- Teams: Detroit Pistons (7-20) at Toronto Raptors (7-19)
- Date: December 19, 2012
- Time: 7:00 p.m.
- Television: FSD
What to look for
After losing 12-of-13 games from early November to mid-December, the Toronto Raptors have rebounded to win their last three games in a row against Dallas, Houston and on the road against Cleveland.
The Raptors are currently without the services of Kyle Lowry and Andrea Bargnani, which has forced them to rely much more on each other as opposed to playing like a slew of individuals. Indeed, the ball movement looks sharp as players are sharing the wealth and attacking when an opening is provided by the opposing defense.
Otherwise, the team has been more than happy to spread around the rock and find the best option possible to create a high percentage shot.
This is a testament to the professionalism of Jose Calderon that has seemingly been on the block every single season that he’s been a member of the Raptors. Whether it’s T.J. Ford or Kyle Lowry, the Spaniard has always been complimentary of the lead guards playing ahead of him and stepped into the starting rotation and performed admirably whenever injuries have hit.
Consequently, it’s not unreasonable to make the proclamation that Jose is the best backup point man in the league outside of Eric Bledsoe.
Toronto will be dangerous at home tonight as the team seems reinvigorated by their recent winning streak and part of the credit also goes to the ever-underrated Amir Johnson.
Much like Calderon, Johnson has been asked in recent seasons to switch roles on the fly for the sake of accommodating team needs; whether it’s being the first big man off the bench or being a starter, the 6’9’’ forward has definitely been a plus for the team.
He might not be seeing as many minutes as he did in the previous two seasons (although not by much), but his pick-and-roll chemistry with Jose Calderon has at times looked like a telepathic connection as the Spaniard just always seems to find him when he rolls hard to the hoop.
Jonas Valanciunas and Ed Davis are the starting frontcourt du jour, but pay close attention to Johnson in the contest tonight because his ability to defend the pick-and-roll is quite important for the Raps. He has the foot speed and intellect to hedge or trap hard and then rotate back to his man, although there are times where he takes poor angles to close on in the ball handler. Nonetheless, his athleticism and long arms make him a pest defensively for opponents.
Indeed, according to NBA.com’s advanced stats tool, when the big man is on the bench, Toronto surrenders 101.5 points per game on 47 percent field goal shooting per 48 minutes, but when Johnson hits the court, the defense improves considerably and only yields 95.9 points per game on 43.9 percent field goal shooting per 48 minutes.
This isn’t merely because the Los Angeles native is a good defensive player, he also does a good job of boxing out players and rebounding his area as evidenced by his 9.4 rebounds per 36 minutes.
Put it all together, and the Detroit Pistons will have their hands full tonight when the tandem of Calderon and Johnson hit the court together, but players such as DeMar DeRozan and Linas Kleiza will also be heard from as well in the contest.
This should be an interesting contest as both teams are fighting to prove that they have the potential to be better than what their records say about them.
Read about the Raptors
Statistical support provided by NBA.com.