TORONTO — Eleven wins in a row, and a perfect seven on homecourt.
The Toronto Raptors beat the Detroit Pistons 111-107 on a night that not only padded their historic winning streak to 11 in a row, but capped a spectacular seven-game homestand, and tied baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays for the longest pro sports streak in the city’s history.
Then they packed up and prepared to head on the road, where they hope the winning continues.
"Taking care of business at home, taking care of home, that’s very important," said coach Dwane Casey. "As much as the winning streak and everything, we’ve got to make sure we value home and treat our fans to quality basketball … but that last quarter? It wasn’t quality."
DeMar DeRozan led the way with 29 points for the Raptors, while Kyle Lowry added 18 points and eight rebounds — but zero assists. Cory Joseph had 16 points, and Bismack Biyombo had 12 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks for Toronto (32-15).
Casey was angry about the Raptors’ inability to put the Pistons away.
The night began on a touching note, when Casey presented Lowry and DeRozan their Eastern Conference all-star jerseys at centre court.
But once the whistle blew, it was a messy affair. The Raptors allowed Detroit to hang around for most of the night. Despite leading 81-72 going into the fourth and stretching their advantage to 20 points midway through the fourth, the Pistons pulled to within single digits in the final 1:48.
"You give up 35 points, the turnovers, lack of focus," Casey said. "Human nature takes over down the stretch, it’s not winning basketball and I think our guys understand that now, they appreciate the win but understand that’s not how you close out a game."
Brandon Jennings led the Pistons (25-23) with 22 points, while Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had 15.
Two nights earlier, against the New York Knicks, the Raptors had broken a franchise win-streak record that had stood for 14 years.
Saturday’s victory was the Raptors’ last at the Air Canada Centre before the Feb. 12-14 NBA all-star game in Toronto, and came in front of a sellout crowd of 19,800 that included rapper Drake, who sat courtside in a red OVO sweatshirt, and former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans.
Drake guest-starred on the television commentary, saying "The guys are rolling, man."
DeRozan said this is the most tightly knit group he’s been a part of.
"The last couple of years we have been relatively close," he said. "This time around everybody wants everybody to succeed. It doesn’t matter if one guy plays less. Everyone is happy for one another."
DeRozan said the chemistry translates to the court.
"We do everything together, all the guys. We joke around on the road. We try to have fun and try not to be so uptight and think about basketball 24/7," he said. "With that we go out and have fun and then you just try to pull out a win every single night."
The Raptors shot 46 per cent on the night and outrebounded the Pistons 45-39.
Toronto had 16 turnovers for 20 points, while Detroit coughed up 18 points on 12 giveaways.
The Blue Jays, meanwhile, won 11 straight on two occasions last year, and have done it five times in total. The Raptors would beat that with a win Monday in Denver.
James Johnson and DeRozan led the way with seven points apiece in a first quarter that saw Lowry go without earning a point, an assist or a rebound. Still, the Raptors led 26-17 heading into the second.
The Pistons pulled to within two points three minutes before halftime, but a three-pointer from Scola sparked a 9-1 Raptors run and Toronto took a 55-47 advantage into the break.
Detroit pulled to within two points again in a messy third quarter. Biyombo got the crowd back into it with a monster block — and a sinister sneer — on a dunk attempt from Aron Baynes with a minute to play.