The only thing worse than watching a pre-season game, is writing about one. The Triano era was one of such poor coaching acumen that the team wouldn’t have been any worse off if Arse was running the show. That said, it was great to finally see some Raptor ball, and Dwayne Casey…I really like the guy:

Are there going to be mistakes? Yes, but I want them to be hard mistakes – Dwayne Casey

Even though Casey was treating this game as a practice of sorts, he still couldn’t help but spit fire throughout the game. My favourite moment was in the 3rd quarter when Rondo and Daniels burned Davis and Bayless on the give-and-go; Casey jumped to his feet and called a timeout before the ball hit the ground, and Davis was sitting on the bench after the timeout. Haven’t seen that in so long, it brought tears to my eyes. I was paying attention to a few things this game: 1) defense 2) Bargnani 3) the new guys.

Defense really is a focus of the team this year. While Triano paid a lot of lip service over the last couple seasons, Casey was able to do more in one week than Jay ever was. This actually really angers me. I mean, at the end of the day you are paid fat stacks to do your job, and nothing. He was as effective in getting this team to play defense as Leo is as a commentator. I question having Triano serve on this team in any capacity at all.

How did Casey get people to play hard you may ask? Hold them accountable; simple is as simple does. Let me ask you this, have you ever seen Bargnani play so hard on defense in 6 years? I’m the first person to piss on the guy, and I counted exactly two defensive mistakes he made all game; only one of which resulted in a basket. We are witness to a new epoch; the Bargnani era. I’m serious, and not being facetious at all. This is what I saw him do defensively in crunch time:

  • With the Raptors on a 16-5 run, Bargnani defended the pick-n-roll like a champ jumping out on Avery Bradley, recovering and blocking Brandon Bass at the rim. On the ensuing break, DeRozan hit a layup cutting the Celtics lead to 70-69 with 4 minutes left in the game
  • After cutting the Celtics lead to 1 with 40 seconds left in the game, Bargnani hedges defending the pick-n-roll, forcing Bradley to throw the ball to Johnson who took an absolute brutal shot (brick off the front of the rim)

These were two of a few solid defensive decisions he made on the floor. I can’t express how excited I am this happened in a pre-season game. Effort people; Casey got Bargnani to give a shit and play as hard as possible. You have to take what happened with a grain of salt, and he’ll need to repeat this effort throughout the season to shake his reputation, but it’s very encouraging to see hustle in a game that meant nothing.

…Impressed with him; he hit the boards and gave effort on the boards…he competed and got out and impacted the ball – Dwayne Casey on Andrea Bargnani

As far as the new kids on the team, Forbes and Butler really grew on me. Forbes in particular really stood out and could be a key reserve for us going forward. He showed nice flex on defense, hit his open shots and generally hustled. He’s a James Johnson with offensive touch; have to like that. Magloire is really a donut, at this point he’s big body for DeRozan to practice tea bagging on in practice; a turnover and a foul in 8 minutes of pre-season action against a teams B-squad is nothing to write home about. Looks like the center spot will be split between Amir and Gray with Magloire being used sparingly when either of those guys are injured or out of pity.

I’m going to finish with one thought: as bad as Calderon is defensively, and as much as he get called out for it, Bayless is equally brutal. I counted three times he looked lost and out of place defending the high pick-and-roll (the third time he actually didn’t do anything at all – just stood there and prayed the shot would clank off the front of the rim; luckily it did). I expect that will change, but just an observation I wanted to put out there especially since Calderon had a pretty good defensive effort today.

TL;DR – Bargnani the defensive anchor in a 1-point loss to the Celtics; Casey already leaving his mark on this team.

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