SPORTS

Valanciunas scores 31 points, but Raptors drop 114-111 decision to Pistons

01/12/2015 09:55 EST | Updated 03/14/2015 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - An uncharacteristic off night from the team's most dependable player proved costly for the Toronto Raptors on Monday night.

And after dropping a 114-111 decision to the sizzling-hot Detroit Pistons, Kyle Lowry beat himself up a little in the post-game dressing room.

Lowry committed seven turnovers on a night that saw the Raptors commit 19, and he took just three shots through three quarters to finish with 10 points.

Was it the pressure being applied by Detroit?

"Naw," Lowry said. "It was more me, more me not being aggressive."

The loss spoiled a career-high 31-point performance from Jonas Valanciunas, who also grabbed 12 rebounds. Seven players scored in double figures for Toronto (25-12), with Greivis Vasquez notching 16, Lou Williams adding 15, Amir Johnson and Terrence Ross finishing with 12 apiece, James Johnson scoring 11, and Lowry finishing with 10 to go with 12 assists.

"That was uncharacteristic of (Lowry), that was one of those tough games for him," said Raptors coach Dwane Casey. "To have seven turnovers is very strange for him. You're going to have nights like that but, again, we've got to make sure we back him up and take care of the ball."

Brandon Jennings had 34 points to top the Pistons (14-24), who won their sixth straight on the road, and ninth in their last 11 games.

The Raptors were outscored 25-16 on second-chance points, and sent the Pistons to the free-throw line 31 times — while going to the line just 14 times themselves. But the Pistons, who as Casey said pre-game have "been clicking on all cylinders," gave up just seven points on eight turnovers.

"The turnovers were the huge thing in this game, that's what decided this game," said Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy. "We took care of the ball and that's the only thing that really gave us a shot to win that game."

The Raptors had defeated the Pistons 110-100 in Detroit on Dec. 19, but the Michigan team's record was third worst in the league at the time. Three days after that victory, the Pistons waived Josh Smith, and have been one of the NBA's hottest teams ever since.

Casey likened them to last season's Raptors team after the Rudy Gay trade.

The Raptors, who snapped a four-game losing skid with their 109-96 victory over Boston on Saturday, led for a good chunk of the first three quarters, and were up by as much as 14 points in the first half.

The Pistons came roaring back in the third, and cut the Raptors' advantage to just 83-82 with a quarter left to play.

Lowry followed up a driving layup with a pair of free throws to put the Raptors up by four points with 3:39 to play, but couldn't put any more distance on their visitors. Back-to-back buckets from Jonas Jerebko gave the Pistons a three-point lead with 1:29 to play, and then after a mad scramble for the ball and with the shot-clock at nearly zero on Detroit's next possession, Jodie Meeks drained a three-pointer to put the Pistons up by four.

"Back breaker. It was a back breaker," Lowry said of Meeks's shot. "Everyone committed to the ball and they got it out and he hit a tough shot."

Lowry, who's poised to make his first NBA all-star team, replied with a three with 43 seconds left, making it a one-point game and bringing the capacity crowd of 19,800 fans at Air Canada Centre to their feet. But the Raptors' point guard missed with seven seconds left, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope connected on two free throws to give Detroit the win.

"We shot ourselves in the foot," Casey said. "For whatever reason, we had the break going, we had our pace going but we were forcing a lot of passes. If you commit that many turnovers against a good team like that, you shoot yourself in the foot and that's what we did."

The coach's message to the team after the game?

"On to the next one," said Patrick Patterson. "We let it slip through our fingers, had a great first half and second half was just horrendous. Only thing we can do now is focus on the next game."

The next one is Wednesday, when the Raptors host Philadelphia. They host the Eastern Conference-leading Atlanta Hawks on Friday, then cap this six-game homestand on Sunday against the New Orleans Pelicans.

The game marked the 21st straight without DeMar DeRozan, who had originally targeted last Thursday for his return, but had then predicted he'd play some time this week. When asked pre-game about a potential return of his all-star guard, Casey wouldn't say.

The Raptors, who've been plagued by slow starts, came out of the opening whistle at full speed, with Valanciunas leading the way with 14 points, and Lowry doling out nine assists — just two shy of the club record for a quarter, held by Doug Christie. Lowry found Valanciunas for an alley-oop dunk that put the Raptors up by 12 midway through the quarter, and they took a 32-20 lead into the second.

Williams led the way with nine points in the second quarter as the Raptors built their lead to 14 points. A floater from Williams with four seconds to play send Toronto into the dressing room at halftime with a 60-48 lead.

The Pistons outscored Toronto 34-23 in the third, tying the game with a three by Jennings midway through the quarter. The Raptors remained within four points of Detroit for the rest of the frame, pulling ahead to lead by one with one quarter to play.

NOTES: Valanciunas's previous career high was 27 points versus the Phoenix Suns on Nov. 24 of this season. . . The Raptors had won six of their previous meetings with Detroit, including four in a row. . . The Raptors had been outscored in the first quarter in nine of their previous 11 starts.

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