Monroe scores 24, Pistons beat Raptors 108-98
TORONTO (AP) — A big effort from Detroit’s bench ensured a happy ending to Jose Calderon’s homecoming party.
Greg Monroe scored 24 points, Calderon had 19 points and nine assists against his former team, and the Pistons snapped a three-game losing streak by beating the Toronto Raptors 108-98 on Monday night.
Rodney Stuckey scored 18 points, Jonas Jerebko had 15 and rookie Khris Middleton added 11 as the Pistons won for just the third time in 19 games.
Stuckey, Jerebko and Middleton combined for 29 of Detroit’s 33 fourth-quarter points.
“That fourth quarter group was tremendous,” Pistons coach Lawrence Frank said. “Great ball movement, really good spacing, very unselfish basketball. Each of those guys really, really impacted the game.”
Returning to Toronto for the first time since he was traded on Jan. 30, Calderon was honored with a standing ovation during pregame introductions and a special video tribute during a first quarter timeout.
“It felt great,” Calderon said. “It’s got to be one of the better moments in my career, for sure.”
Calderon spent 7 ½ seasons with the Raptors and is the team’s career leader in assists (3,770) and free throw percentage (.877).
“I was happy for him because I know how much he loved it here,” Frank said. “This wasn’t a guy who had anything negative to say about Toronto. He always embraced it and still does.”
Calderon’s new teammates were eager to get him a victory on his old home court.
“I was playing as hard as I could,” Jerebko said. “I wanted to get a win for Jose. The fans here love him. He just wanted to come home and get a win and I’m glad we could help him do that.”
Proving that old habits die hard, Calderon mistakenly started walking toward the Raptors’ locker room at the half, laughing when he realized his error.
“They called me back really quick,” he said. “It was just three or four steps.”
Calderon acknowledged that it was “a weird feeling” to play as a visitor in Toronto. He said he’d struggled with his emotions all day, no more so than during his video tribute.
“It was emotional,” he said. “No tear was out but I was close.”
Rudy Gay scored 34 points, Jonas Valanciunas had 17 and DeMar DeRozan 15 as the Raptors lost for the seventh time in eight games and were officially eliminated from playoff contention.
“It hurts,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “Our goal was to knock on the door and get into the playoffs. A couple of weeks ago we saw that light but it faded when we could not take care of games against Washington, Cleveland and Milwaukee.”
Detroit opened the fourth with an 8-2 run, turning a 79-75 deficit into an 83-81 lead and forcing Toronto to call timeout with 9:40 left after a reverse layup by Middleton.
The stoppage didn’t help Toronto, as Stuckey completed a three-point play, Calderon made a jumper and Middleton added another layup, making it 90-81 with 7:45 left and causing Casey to burn another timeout.
This time, Toronto responded, scoring six straight points. Calderon hit a 3 but DeRozan replied with consecutive jump shots, cutting it to 93-91 with 4:58 remaining.
Gay briefly gave restored Toronto’s lead with a 3, but back-to-back 3s by Middleton and Stuckey, and a jumper by Jerebko, made it 101-94 for Detroit with 2:29 left.
A three-point play by Gay cut it to 103-98 with 1:23 to go, but Jerebko threw down a put-back slam on Calderon’s missed 3 with 35 seconds left, killing Toronto’s comeback hopes.
“We did a good job if withstanding their runs today and responding with our own,” Monroe said. “Guys showed a lot of fight.”
Before the game, the Pistons announced that forward Jason Maxiell will miss the remainder of the season after surgery to repair a detached retina. Maxiell began complaining of blurry vision last week and didn’t travel with the team for Sunday’s loss at Chicago. He stayed in Detroit to visit a specialist, who diagnosed the injury.
Detroit was also without guard Will Bynum, who sat out with a strained right hand.
Raptors swingman Landry Fields was unavailable because of pain in his right elbow. Fields had surgery on the elbow last November, forcing him to miss 22 games. He skipped Monday’s game to travel to Los Angeles for follow-up testing.
Monroe scored 10 points in the first as the Pistons closed the quarter with a 6-0 run to lead 25-24. Gay scored eight points in the second and Kyle Lowry’s jumper with 10 seconds left gave Toronto a 55-54 lead at the half.
Detroit missed nine straight shots to start the second half, and Gay scored seven points as the Raptors opened the third with a 13-4 run, forcing the Pistons to call timeout at 6:02, trailing 68-58.
“We kind of hit a slump but we were able to regroup,” Monroe said.
Indeed, the Pistons recovered to make seven of their next nine shots, and Stuckey’s driving jumper at the buzzer cut it to 79-75 heading into the fourth.
NOTES: Detroit’s bench outscored Toronto’s 51-17. ... The Pistons played for the third time in four days. ... Blue Jays players Adam Lind and Colby Rasmus attended the game, as did Toronto FC coach Ryan Nelsen.