Before facing last season’s Western Conference finalist Memphis Grizzlies in one of the final tune-ups for this season, Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said he was hoping for a tight contest.
He wanted to see his starters forced to play big minutes late in a close game in order to get them ready for next week’s NBA season opener.
It didn’t quite work out that way.
The Raptors took charge of the game late in the first quarter and quickly turned it into a laugher, pounding the Grizzlies 108-72 before a crowd of 14,421 at Air Canada Centre.
Still, Casey was impressed with how his team rebounded the ball, especially at their own end of the court, against one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the game.
“They did an excellent job and they responded,” Casey said. “I thought our guys met the challenge defensively. This has to be our personality night in, night out.
“As meaningless as these games are, you can still have a chance to work on some things.”
Toronto surrendered just seven offensive rebounds to the Grizzlies while grabbing 12 at the Memphis end of the court. Overall, the Raptors held a 54-36 edge in rebounds.
Thirteen different Toronto players scored points, five of them in double figures, as the Raptors led by as many as 39 points on the way to improving to 6-1 in the pre-season, which ends in Milwaukee Friday.
“Tonight was a great test for us,” said Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan, who led the way with 21 points. “We wanted to come in and hold our ground and that’s what we did.”
With the Raptors poised to open the season at home against the Boston Celtics next Wednesday, DeRozan said his confidence is “as high as it’s ever been, by far.
“I just don’t feel like anybody can guard me. I don’t really worry about anything on the offensive end. I know I can score when I want to and I know I can create whenever I want to or get to the free-throw line.”
Rudy Gay added 15 points while Austin Daye had 14 points off the bench as the Raptors shot 46 per cent from the field, including an impressive 53 per cent from three-point range.
The Grizzlies, meanwhile, were brutal at both ends of the court. They shot just 35 per cent from the field, including only 24 per cent from the beyond the arc.
Ed Davis and Jon Leuer each had 11 points to lead the Grizzlies.
“We are getting closer and closer to the season so the quicker we can get into game shape the better,” said Gay, who came to the Raptors from Memphis in a trade last year. “We really want to get a jump start this season so I think it’s good we got a lot of minutes.”
The Raptors did come out of the evening with some health concerns.
Starting guard Kyle Lowry left the game in the second half with an injured left ring finger and did not return. Starting centre Jonas Valanciunas took an elbow from Zach Randolph and required stitches to his chin while Tyler Hansbrough injured his right thumb and Julyan Stone got a knee to his thigh.
“It wouldn’t be pre-season if we didn’t have some drama,” Casey quipped.
The biggest concern is clearly Lowry, who Casey said “popped out” his finger when reaching for a loose ball. But the coach noted the injury, which will be re-evaluated Thursday, is to his non-shooting hand.
Despite the lopsided victory, it was far from a pretty effort for the Raptors, who committed 17 turnovers. The Grizzlies had 19 turnovers on the night.