AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - Detroit Pistons coach Lawrence Frank only had one regret about Saturday's first quarter against the Toronto Raptors.
"It ended," Frank said with a chuckle after Detroit's 105-86 victory.
The Pistons outscored Toronto 37-14 in the first period and never looked back. Brandon Knight scored 15 points in the period, outscoring the Raptors himself.
"We always want to attack the rim, and we did a great job of that early," the rookie said. "We wanted to come out with as much energy as possible from the start, and we know we left it all on the floor tonight."
Detroit outshot Toronto 71 per cent to 25 per cent, taking advantage of Toronto's less-than-imposing frontline of Aaron Gray and Andrea Bargnani.
"Most of that was defence — we were getting easy baskets off stops — and we always try to be aggressive," said Rodney Stuckey, who led Detroit with 20 points and eight assists. "But we also knew they don't have shot-blockers in the middle, so we really tried to get the ball to the rim."
The Pistons, who are now 11-6 since a 4-20 start, had six players in double figures and shot over 50 per cent for the second straight night.
"Obviously, we were very, very good all night," Frank said. "We got into an offensive rhythm and we got a lot of easy baskets."
After their terrible start, where they looked like they would battle Charlotte for the league's worst record, the Pistons have now gotten themselves within 3 1/2 games of the eighth Eastern Conference playoff
The problem is that they now face their biggest test of the season, playing 10 games in 10 cities in an 18-day stretch. Their only home game of the run comes on March 23 against Miami.
"This is the first trip I've ever taken like this, so it is going to be a learning experience," Knight said. "I just know we're playing better all of the time, and we have to keep it going."
Toronto, which beat Detroit by 20 in their first meeting this season, was led by DeMar DeRozan's 15 points, but only two others reached double figures. Bargnani returned after missing 26 of 28 games with a
strained calf, and scored eight points in 19 minutes.
"I'm shocked that we came out with that kind of effort," said Toronto coach Dwane Casey. "There was no defensive focus, there was no screening — there was no fundamental that we executed tonight, and I'm shocked."
Things got even worse for the Raptors in the second quarter, when Jose Calderon stepped on Knight's ankle at top speed and badly sprained his right ankle. He did not return to the game.
"We'll have to come up with something," Casey said about replacing Calderon in the lineup. "We have Jerryd (Bayless) and (Gary) Forbes at the point, and LB (Leandro Barbosa) can slide over. We'll figure it
out. It isn't an excuse."
Detroit still led 61-37 after a fairly even second period, but both teams remembered the game on Dec. 11, 2010, when the Raptors trailed by 25 in the third quarter before rallying to beat the Pistons 120-116 at
This time, though, the Raptors couldn't get the defensive stops they would have needed to pull off a repeat performance. Detroit scored 28 more points in the third, and led 89-58 going into the final period.
"They just outworked us," James Johnson said. "You would think we would be focused, but we just looked tired. We didn't accomplish anything we wanted to do. All the things we went over on film? We didn't do them."
NOTES: X-rays on Calderon's ankle were negative, but he is not expected to play in Sunday's game against Milwaukee. ... Tayshaun Prince became the sixth player to play 700 games for the Pistons. ... Charlie Villauneva (ankle) played the last three minutes — his first action since Jan. 4.