The pre-season is a time for players to get acclimated to their new teammates and for teams to work out the kinks.
That’s exactly what onlookers saw Wednesday at the Air Canada Centre as the Toronto Raptors dropped their preseason home opener 101-89 to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Dwane Casey, working with a roster comprised of mostly holdovers from last season, spent a good portion of the game attempting to find combinations of players that worked well together off of the bench.
Perhaps because of this, there was a bit of a let down on both ends of the floor.
“I like that we showed some things that we need to work on,” Casey said, attempting to put a positive spin on the loss.
There were a few problems for the Raptors on the night, including shot selection and taking care of the basketball. However those were not what Casey identified as the biggest issue.
“We are definitely not where we want to be defensively,” he said.
Toronto’s defence allowed Minnesota to shoot 47 per cent from the floor, which included a big 20-point effort from power forward Kevin Love.
“Their offence was more fluid than ours,” said Raptors forward Rudy Gay. “It’s training camp, I guess they worked on it a little bit more but we’ve been working on the defensive side this training camp.”
Things weren’t all bad for the Raptors as they got a strong effort from their starting shooting guard DeMar DeRozan.
DeRozan set the tone for the Raptors offensively, routinely taking the ball to the basket and inviting contact. He finished with 17 points on 6-for-7 shooting from the floor and 5-of-6 from the free throw line.
“You kinda know when you are playing certain teams that you can pick and choose your spots,” DeRozan said. “I knew I was going to be matched up against smaller two-guards and I just went out there and tried to take advantage.”
DeRozan gave us another long look at the expanded post-game that he showed glimpses of last season. On multiple occasions he went to work in the paint against the slimmer Minnesota defenders.
“A lot of times two guards are going to be a lot smaller than me and that is something that I can definitely take advantage of,” DeRozan said, of his expanding offensive game. “I’m just trying to get better at that and trying to start to create for my teammates after [the defenders] come and double me, and try to read different situations.”
Unfortunately for the Raptors, DeRozen didn’t get much help from his teammates offensively. Fellow starter Gay shot just 2-for-7 from the floor, while key bench contributors Terrence Ross and Dwight Buycks made a combined six of their 19 attempts.
Ultimately, it is still early on in the pre-season and the Raptors still have much room for improvement.
“You don’t want to show too much in the pre-season,” Gay said.
The Raptors will resume their pre-season on Friday when Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks visit the ACC.