Game Preview: Raptors vs. Pistons

Holly MacKenzie - Raptors.com

Exactly one month after kicking off training camp, the Toronto Raptors will kick off the regular season against the Detroit Pistons on the Air Canada Centre floor. With a magical 2015-16 season in the rearview, the journey begins once again.

Tip-off: 7:30 P.M. ET

Broadcast Info: TSN / TSN1050


Pistons Provide Early Test

The Raptors took care of the Pistons easily in the preseason, earning a 103-92 victory behind a brilliant night from DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. They understand things will be different in the regular season opener for both teams, though. In the preseason loss, Detroit big man Andre Drummond was a force, scoring 16 points to go with 13 rebounds. Casey wants his team to be ready for Drummond and his teammates on Wednesday night.

“They want to forcefully beat you up,” Casey said. “Physically beat you up. If you’re not coming in mentally prepared to go against that they’ll have the advantage. That’s got to be our whole mindset, be physically prepared to go into a battle.”

The Pistons will be without point guard Reggie Jackson who is out with a sore knee, but they’re still a very dangerous team. Although they lost in the first round against the Cleveland Cavaliers last postseason, the younger players on Detroit’s roster gained invaluable experience.

“I think Detroit’s a very experienced team that has added some tough, hard-minded players,” Casey said. “They gave Cleveland a run for their money in the playoffs last year when they were healthy. It hurt them a bit, losing Reggie Jackson, but Stan [Van Gundy’s] a very good coach. They’re a well-coached team. They’re defensive minded. They’ll be in the thick of things.”

Making continuity count

A lot is made of continuity in the NBA. For a Raptors team that has suddenly gotten much younger, with 10 of its 15 players under 25 years old, it is the familiarity of the returning core that makes things a bit easier for everyone.

“It’s always been our advantage, the last couple of years,” DeMar DeRozan said. “The camaraderie, knowing the coaching staff, not too much changed. We lean on that a lot.”

Simply having a core group that has a history of playing alongside each other isn’t enough to guarantee success, though. This is a daily lesson that Toronto’s coaching staff has been teaching throughout training camp.

“We’ve got to make it an advantage,” Casey said. “We’ve got to come out execute, do the things we did, last year. Again, last year is last year. Every year is a new year. We’ got to come out, scratch, execute, have the same mentality that we’ve got to be the hardest working team on the floor that night.

“If we come out and try to just throw our press clippings on the floor it’s not going to work. That’s been true of any team I've ever been with. We’ve got to have that hard working mentality, that hard hat mentality to be successful in the Eastern Conference.”

While there will surely be ups and downs through the season, one of the biggest keys is sticking with the game plan and staying calm. The goal is consistency, rather than perfection.

“It’s about consistency,” Casey said. “It’s not going to change as far as our identity. How we have to win in this league, how we have to approach each season [is] like it’s the first time we’ve ever seen each there, as far as working hard.”

Undermanned To Start

With the team announcing that Jared Sullinger would undergo surgery to have a screw inserted into the fifth metatarsal of his left foot as a preventative measure to alleviate symptomatic stress reactions, it was a given that the Raptors would start the season undermanned. After Tuesday’s practice session, Casey had both good news and bad news regarding the expected availability of his players for the home opener.

The positive is that Terrence Ross is expected to suit up after dealing with a sore knee during preseason. The negative is that Lucas Nogueira’s sprained ankle could keep him sidelined. Casey said Nogueira has been coming in to get regular treatment on his ankle, but he didn’t expect that he would be ready to play. If Nogueira is unavailable, it’ll provide an opportunity for rookie big Jakob Poeltl. Fellow rookie Pascal Siakam will already have his shot to make an impression while Sullinger is recovering from his successful surgery.