Raptors win again, but ...
By MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency
|Toronto Raptors forward Jonas Valanciunas reacts after drawing a foul against the Milwaukee Bucks during the first half of their NBA pre-season basketball game in Toronto October 22, 2012. (Reuters/MIKE CASSESE)
As a farewell to the pre-season schedule this one and only trip into the Western conference provided Dwane Casey with all the ammunition he needs to keep cracking the whip until Wednesday’s opener against Indiana.
Sure they won the game, pulling away for a120-106 win but giving up 66 first-half points to a Grizzlies lineup without Marc Gasol, Mike Conley and Rudy Gay isn’t going to earn them any slack with Casey.
“I don’t know what it is but we have to find a remedy for it,” a disturbed Casey said after the game. “This is a trend. I know it’s pre-season but it has been every game that we have had a slow start and the second group has had to come in (and bail us out).
“We have to either look at the lineup and see what we’re doing, who is in the lineup ... We gave up 66 points in the first half and that’s unacceptable,” Casey said. “We gave up 36 in the first quarter. That’s almost two 40-point quarters we have given up at the start of the game. We have to look at the lineup and get a balance if we can’t stop this trend.”
Casey is well aware the win Friday night gives the Raptors a 6-1 record, only the best mark in franchise history for a pre-season, but it’s of little solace to a coach who knows that if his team can’t find a way to lock in to begin a game, things are only going to get tougher once the games start to count for real.
The Raps did tighten up the defence substantially in the second half but with the Memphis reserves shooting almost 50% from both the field and beyond the arc in that first half, Casey basically has license (not that he has to justify anything) to run these guys ragged over the next four days.
And running them ragged might be the best case scenario based on his comments post game.
“We have (other) options,” Casey said suggesting he hasn’t discounted the idea of a last minute shuffle to the starting lineup that seemed set with Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Landry Fields, Andrea Bargnani and Jonas Valanciunas.
“The second group has been just as efficient as the first group,” Casey pointed out.
Defensive slippage and turnovers have been the two major concerns for the Raptors head coach this season and while the turnovers weren’t the problem they were in the next-to-last pre-season game against Milwaukee, the defence wasn’t close to acceptable.
Led by former Raptor Jerryd Bayless, the Grizzlies second stringers got far too many easy baskets against the five would-be starters from Toronto..
A self-jinx maybe
Following shootaround Friday morning, Casey was asked what had surprised him so far about his Raptors this pre-season.
“Our three-point shooting has been good,” Casey said. “I think that has been a pleasant surprise. Our goal is to (attempt) two extra a quarter and we have surpassed that and we’ve made them. It’s not like we just jacked them up. We’re taking quality three-point shots and making them. That’s a plus.”
His Raptors then went out and threw up a pre-season high 34 three’s making just 11 of them.
Rookie Terrence Ross and newcomer John Lucas III who have been helping that three-point percentage mark were off Friday night. Ross threw up eight and hit just two. Lucas, who has been white-hot from distance managed just two-of-five.
As for the bad
Well, it will come as no surprise to anyone who has followed this team at all this pre-season or certainly anyone who found a way to listen to Friday’s game (thankfully there was no TV coverage), rectifying those slow starts is job No. 1 but only the only job.
“The other one is the turnovers giving them extra shots and as the pre-season goes you want that to go the other way but ours is going higher,” Casey said. “It’s trending the negative way so that is the major concern more than anything else.”
On that front Casey will rest a little easier. His team turned the ball over just 12 times Friday night or two times less than they did in the first half against Milwaukee on Wednesday.
Valanciunas had some company Friday night in the foul trouble department. Before Valanciunas could get his fourth of the night, rookie Quincy Acy had already reached that number. Valanciunas did get nailed for his fifth before the third quarter had expired but like he did in Montreal, he managed not to foul out ... They announced 10,206 in Memphis Friday night but at least half of those were posing as empty seats ... Casey came into the game hoping to get Ross as many minutes as possible. He managed to get him 26 but the sweet shot that had marked most of Ross’ appearances this pre-season was AWOL. Ross was good on just 4-of-12 and just 2-of-8 from three-point range.
AND SOME MORE
Kyle Lowry and Bayless were going at each other all night and for the first half it looked like Bayless was going to win that battle. But Lowry has shown a penchant for turning it on in the second half and with Bayless talking some trash, that was all the motivation he needed. Lowry wound up with 18 points and seven assists to Bayless’ 17 points and five assists. Asked about the verbal back and forth after the game, Lowry said he didn’t know what his questioner was talking about ... Alan Anderson and Jamaal Magloire were the only Raptors not to see the floor that were in uniform ... Ed Davis did not play last night as he rested a sore hip.