Preseason basketball is about giving players time to find their groves, affording them the opportunities to mesh with the new teammates and display skills that they have worked on over the summer. Preseason is not about wins and losses, which is a good thing for the Toronto Raptors as they struggled on both ends of the floor in their 101-89 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night.
Defensively, Raptors took a step back after their win in Boston on Monday, surrendering 47 per cent shooting to the T'Wolves - a big portion of Minnesota's attack came in the second half after Toronto's starters came out flat and then coach Casey opted to play his bench for extended periods of time.
"I like that we showed some things that we need to work on," Casey said after the game, noting that defence was one of those areas.
For Minnesota, Kevin Love led the way, scoring 20 points on 6-of-14 shooting from the floor. Love and fellow frontcourt mate Nokola Pekovic presented quite a challenge for Toronto's interior defenders. Pek. chipped in 12 points and 8 rebounds.
Offense was also a struggle for Toronto as they shot just 42 per cent from the floor, including a combined 13-for-41 from their bench.
The bench, as it was last year, is going to be an Achilles heal for this club. If they can't hold leads, or even give the starters a boost on some nights, it is going to be a long season in Raptorland.
On the bright side of things, DeMar DeRozan was solid for Toronto. DeRozan made 6 of his seven attempts from the floor and five of his six attempts from the free throw line for a team-high 17 points.
The majority of his buckets came while attacking the basket. On multiple occasions, DeRozan took advantage of smaller defenders by backing them down in the post.
"You kinda know when you are playing certain teams that you can pick and choose your spots," DeRozan told RaptorsHQ. "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 postgame that he showed glimpses of last season.
"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 added. "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."
With the loss, the Raptors now drop to 1-1 on the preseason and will take on Andrea Bargnani and the New York Knicks Friday in what is sure to be an eventful nigh for fans looking to voice their displeasure with the enigmatic forward.
Back up Point guard
For the second straight game, both D.J Augustin and Dwight Buycks failed to step up in the race for the back up point guard position. At this point, the job is very much up for grabs, but it seems as though neither player really wants it. Augustin was a minus three with three points and three assists in 12 minutes while Buycks shot 3-of-9 and was a minus 13 in 17 minutes.
After an impressive initial preseason game, we saw a bit of a regression for Terrence Ross. While he did seem more comfortable driving the ball to the basket, he really struggled to make his jumpshots, even hitting the site of the backboard on one of his three-point attempts. He finished 3-of-9 from the floor and is simply going to have to get more comfortable taking shots in rhythm -- a skill that was one of his strengths entering the league.
When Masai Ujiri made the trade for Steve Novak back in July, he knew exactly what he was getting -- a vet. with a jumpshot. That was on full display Wednesday and Novak made three of his five attempts from downtown in what was his debut with the Raptors.
Doug Smith reported last night that the Raptor mascot suffered a season ending injury. The man behind the Raptor has been with the club since it's inaugural season. When asked about the loss Dwane Casey said: "The Raptor will be back. We need his spirit. We'll miss him."