TORONTO — The Toronto Raptors put forth a stellar defensive effort and it led to a decisive victory Friday night.
Pascal Siakam had a game-high 32 points and nine assists and the Raptors dominated the Detroit Pistons en route to a 118-97 win. Toronto, which entered Friday averaging an NBA-leading 9.3 steals per game, had 12 steals and nine blocks as the Pistons coughed it up 22 times.
The Raptors also scored 23 points off turnovers.
"I thought we did a good job of executing defensively," said Raptors head coach Nick Nurse. "I thought we were really aggressive in pursuing the ball and deflecting it around a lot. Created a lot of turnovers, blocked a lot of shots, just kept staying with the play."
Chris Boucher added 19 points and 13 rebounds off the bench and Fred VanVleet poured in 18 points for Toronto (36-38), which ended its two-game skid.
It was the Raptors' first season sweep of the Pistons since the 2017-18 campaign. Toronto also improved to 7-0 on the year when holding its opponents to under 100 points.
The Raptors moved within half a game of Atlanta for eighth place in the Eastern Conference with eight games remaining in the regular season.
"Every game right now is important for us, I don’t care who we play, really," Siakam said. "All these games matter to us, and you know, we wanna go out there and give everything that we got every single game. … This is it."
Jaden Ivey scored 20 points for Detroit (16-58), which had its losing streak extended to five games. Marvin Bagley III added 14 points and nine rebounds and James Wiseman also scored 14.
"I feel like our effort was horrible tonight. We’ve just got to have more effort," Ivey said. "Our effort has to be high to get back on defence and make those second-effort plays.
"We’ve got to all look ourselves in the mirror and say ‘Is our spirit there?’ That’s the most important thing when you step out there on the floor."
O.G. Anunoby kick-started a 7-0 Toronto run with a three-pointer and Will Barton capped it with a fast-break layup after a VanVleet steal to put the Raptors ahead 17-7 with 7:45 left in the first quarter.
Thirty-five seconds later, Barton hit a corner three to increase the lead. Toronto went 5-of-7 from three-point range up to that point and closed the frame up 38-26.
The Pistons trimmed the deficit early in the second with a 7-2 run, only for Siakam to foil their momentum. The all-star forward scored seven of his 26 first-half points in a 9-2 Toronto run that followed.
After a pair of free throws with 46.1 seconds left, Jakob Poeltl blocked a Bagley floater attempt and Toronto went into halftime ahead 72-52.
"They were like a machine to start the game," said Pistons coach Dwane Casey.
Anunoby's 18-foot jumper with 2:03 left in the third gave the Raptors their largest lead of the night to that point at 22 points, and went into the fourth with a 92-73 edge.
Boucher scored five points in an 8-3 Toronto run early to make it a 104-77 game. The Montreal native had an emphatic put-back dunk over Pistons centre Jalen Duren following a Siakam miss and hit the free throw after. Boucher then blocked Duren, and two possessions later, hit a three-pointer.
"We're best when he's just flying around. It's a little wild sometimes. It's fun to watch," Nurse said of Boucher. "He's blocking shots. He's trying to dunk everything … and just making lots of energy plays.
"That's big because I think that is contagious and translates to other players."
Casey expressed his pride in the history made on Wednesday in Toronto. In starting Andrew Nembhard of Aurora, Ont., Bennedict Mathurin of Montreal and Oshae Brissett of Mississauga, Ont., the Indiana Pacers became the first team since starters were officially tracked in 1970-71 to start three Canadian-born players in an NBA game.
"They really played well and there’s something to that and I was just proud to see the growth of Canadian basketball starting with that group," Casey said pre-game. "Being here, in the (United) States they probably look at it like ‘Uhh,’ but I understand the magnitude of that and how important that is and it was really beautiful to see."
The Raptors remained without forwards Precious Achiuwa (right hamstring tightness), Scottie Barnes (left wrist soreness), Joe Wieskamp (right hamstring strain) and guard Gary Trent Jr. (right elbow stiffness).
Raptors: Play the third of a four-game homestand against the Washington Wizards on Sunday.
Pistons: Return home to play the NBA-best Milwaukee Bucks on Monday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 24, 2023.
Abdulhamid Ibrahim, The Canadian Press