It’s not quite an early vacation, but the Pistons had another game on their schedule postponed because of health and safety protocols.
Tuesday’s matchup against the Toronto Raptors — who are playing their home games in Tampa this season during the pandemic — was postponed because of ongoing contact tracing within the Raptors organization. The NBA announced Monday night that the game is tentatively rescheduled for Wednesday night at 7.
The Pistons (9-25) have one other game scheduled before the All-Star break: Thursday against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden, meaning they’ll finish the first half of the schedule with a back-to-back. The Knicks game was added to the schedule last month, as the league attempted to balance the first and second halves of the schedule with 36 games each.
The NBA postponed the Raptors’ home game against the Chicago Bulls scheduled for Sunday because they wouldn’t have enough players to meet the minimum requirement of eight healthy players. On Friday, the Raptors played without head coach Nick Nurse and most of their coaching staff, along with All-Star forward Pascal Siakam and beat the Houston Rockets.
The Raptors (17-17) have surged, going 10-5 since they started the season slowly. Their recovery has landed them in a tie for the fifth-best record in the East, just a half-game behind the Knicks.
The Knicks are one of the big surprises in the league this season. At 18-17, they are in the No. 4 spot in the East, after being projected to be one of the worst teams in the conference.
Part of their rise has been due to the improvement of forward Julius Randle, who was selected to his first All-Star team. He showed some of that skill, going for 25 points, eight rebounds and six assists on Sunday night in a win over the Pistons.
Randle has been known as an imposing force inside the arc, but he’s expanded his range, with a career 42% on 3-pointers, which has made him a dual threat. Against the Pistons, he was more than a handful, going 10-of-18 from the field, with some good looks in the paint.
“He was 3-for-6 from 3. You can get him off the block, but then you have to guard him at the 3-point line. That young man is a great example of how guys develop and he’s reshaped his game and has come along,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “He’s in great physical condition with 46 minutes (Saturday) night and 37 (Sunday).
“That’s a tribute to him. He’s a hard cover and when you do get him off his sweet spot, you have to guard his tendencies. We weren’t consistent enough in doing it; we did it in spurts, but not enough.”
Svi the starter
The Pistons continue to try new options in their rotation, which included inserting Svi Mykhailiuk into the starting group for the second time this season. Mykhailiuk started for Wayne Ellington, who had been struggling with his shot and had scored in double figures in just one of his previous 11 games.
Ellington broke out of the funk with 15 points on Sunday, including four 3-pointers.
“(We wanted to) let Wayne breathe a little bit. Wayne’s been struggling a little bit and I thought he bounced out of it tonight and relaxed and let it fly,” Casey said. “You don’t forget how to shoot the ball. Wayne got going and Svi was 0-for-3, but Svi’s defense was decent and he was competing defensively.”
Pistons at Raptors
► Tipoff: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Amalie Arena, Tampa, Florida
► Outlook: The Pistons (9-25) have lost six of their last seven games, including a 19-point defeat on Sunday to the Knicks. It’s the first meeting this season versus the Raptors, who are surging after a slow start. Pascal Siakam likely will be out until after the All-Star break because of contact tracing.