Raptors 120, Grizzlies 106

Like a lot of pre-season games over the last couple of nights, Friday’s Raptors/Grizzlies contest wasn’t televised in either team’s city, and the only way you could actually follow this game live outside of being there was on Memphis radio, so it’s kind of like a Raptors fan’s equivalent of the whole “if a tree falls in the forest with no one around” shtick.

It’s nice to see the Raptors pull out a road win to end the exhibition schedule, but the truth is that they dug themselves another early hole and failed to get off to a good start in any of their seven pre-season games. If that carries over to the regular season, when three of their first four games are against the Pacers, Nets and Thunder (the other game is against a banged up but pesky TWolves squad), things could get ugly.

I should also add that while none of the Raptors’ starting five played more than 25 minutes (okay, Lowry played 25:04), the Grizzlies only played one of their starters at all (Tony Allen), with Mike Conley, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol all sitting this one out.

If you’re wondering, Valanciunas took a dunk in the face from Marreese Speights, picked up five fouls and committed four turnovers in just 20:36 of action, which is a bit concerning considering the Grizzlies’ “B” team was his competition, but Jonas also finished with 15 points, seven rebounds and a block.

Jerryd Bayless, surely out to prove a point, finished with 17 points, seven rebounds and five assists in just over 19 minutes.

Lastly in my piling on of pessimism, the 6-1 record looks good, but I’m forced to remind you that five of those games were played in Canada, and that the Raptors’ wins came against a Euroleague team, the Pistons, the Wizards, the Bucks and the Grizzlies’ reserves, with a win against the Knicks in Montreal being the lone impressive W of the pre-season.

Having said all of that, you can only beat who they throw in front of you, and to their credit, the Raptors found a way to get the job done six out of seven times. I’ll always maintain that the only thing a really good pre-season record tells me is that a team is deep, and probably got wins because their bench and third string guys are better than the other team’s bench and third string guys. I think it’s safe to say that was the story of this stretch for Toronto.

In any event, here’s an interesting stat tweeted by NBA writer John Schuhmann. Make with it what you will.

(Schuhmann didn’t include 2011 pre-season numbers because teams only played two games each in the condensed schedule)

To me, the most important part of the pre-season is the fact that the Raptors got through it relatively healthy, with only minor bumps and short term scares along the way, and that for the most part, Jonas Valanciunas more than held his own against a few legit NBA big men.

Other positives were the overall play of the three-deep point guard rotation, DeMar DeRozan’s willingness to take smaller wings into the post and the fact that Andrea Bargnani’s offence seemed to finally start clicking in the last few games. Also, while his lack of three-point prowess and shooting in general is starting to concern me (he finished the pre-season 1-of-8 from behind the arc and 40% from the floor), Landry Fields still found a way to be useful within the offence, moving exceptionally well off of the ball to create spacing, and even proving to be a little craftier in getting to the rim than I thought he was.

In reality though, we’ll probably forget most of what we saw or thought we learned in the pre-season once we’re knee deep in the regular season, as we should.

Now we get less than a week of waiting before the real fun begins.

I don’t know if we’ll have anything else for you this weekend, and I assume the team will have a day off to attend a pasta party at “Mr. Primo’s” crib, but we’ll have plenty of content for you next week to ring in our version of the New Year, including some preview and prediction posts, as well as a special season preview episode of RaptorBlog Radio, featuring an interview with Dwane Casey.

Until then…