The Raptors have started the preseason in impressive form as they come into tonight’s matchup boasting a 5-1 record. Dwane Casey took time after practice on Wednesday to temper expectations on this year’s team. It became clear that he doesn’t read much into the hot start the team has made. The Lakers are 0-6 but nobody expects them to be competing for ping pong balls next summer.
Amidst Casey’s attempt to lower expectations he said something that stood out to me.
"I do like the fact that we’re trying to develop a winning personality."
The Raptors of recent memory were a team that seemingly lacked an identity. This all changed last season when Casey came in and gave them one. Based on what we’ve heard out of him this year it seems like he’s going to continue to build on this identity and he touches on this theme quite a bit in his press conferences.
We get a chance to see another step in the development of our identity tonight. This will be the final chance for players to make an impression before the regular season kicks off.
As per usual protocol, here are the keys to the game:
1) Protect the rock: Toronto turned the ball over 19 times against the Bucks and got away with it. Can they afford to do the same against a better Grizzlies team? Rudy Gay and Tony Allen are two feisty wing players and both have reputations for getting after it on the defensive end and coming up with steals. It will be interesting to see how DeMar DeRozan plays against the aforementioned Allen and that matchup could very well determine the outcome of this game.
2) Big Men: Zach Randolph may have lost some of his effectiveness but alongside Marc Gasol still makes up one of the more intimidating frontcourts in the association. Jonas Valanciunas had a great game against the Bucks and will need to do more of the same against the consistently-excellent Gasol. Amir Johnson has quietly put together a solid string of games as well and Andrea Bargnani had his best scoring game of the preseason last time out. More of the same, please.
3) Fast Start: It is much easier to win on the road when you get off to a good start. This is especially true when dealing with a young team like the Raptors. If the team gets going quickly and can set the tone for the game it will only help their confidence. The Grizzlies have flattered to deceive so far this preseason and the Dinos can take advantage of that. Either that or just hope that we can survive the inevitable Jerry Bayless statement game.