So, through much of the fourth quarter and two extra sessions Monday night, the Toronto Raptors head coach never thought of returning his starters to the floor against the New York Knicks.
This is the pre-season, a time to learn about your team. And for your players to learn about themselves.
The Raptors reserves got to play a starring role in a 123-120 double overtime win before 15,701 at the Air Canada Centre, improving their pre-season record to an impressive 5-1.
"It was a great experience for those young kids to really play in those situations," Casey said. "In the regular season, most likely, unless something catastrophic happens, they're not going to be out there."
Second-year guard Terrence Ross led the way, hitting six of the 13 three-point shots he attempted on the night. None was bigger than a rainbow from beyond the arc as the buzzer sounded to end the first overtime period, tying the game at 113-113 and setting the stage for another five-minute session.
"It prepares you for future games if you ever get in that situation, what to do, what not to do," said Ross, who finished the night as the game's high scorer with 27 points. "It's always kind of nerve-wracking (in a game) no matter how many times you go over it in practice.
"So, getting in that live experience it helps."
The games don't count. But that doesn't mean they don't matter.
Casey said because "nobody's guaranteed minutes," it was great to see the bench players battle down the stretch and eventually pick up the win. Especially after they struggled earlier in the game.
"I owe it to the players to try and execute down the stretch," Casey said.
Toronto power forward Tyler Hansbrough, who since signing from Indianapolis in the off-season has already become a fan favourite for his aggressive style of play, forced overtime with a dunk in the dying seconds of the fourth quarter. He took a pass at the top of the key, spun on his defender and waltzed to the basket.
"They're very important minutes," Hansbrough said of the fourth quarter and overtimes. "You never know if a starter is going to go down or something and you're going to be in that situation, especially late in the game.
"It was important to get some guys some experience."
Among the starters, DeMar DeRozan had 21 points and seven rebounds in 29 minutes while Rudy Gay added 19 points and seven rebounds in 26 minutes. Kyle Lowry chipped in 11 points in 24 minutes.
"It was entertaining to watch, especially to see the other guys get out there and get a chance to compete," said DeRozan. "It definitely helps because you have to understand every play and every situation is critical."
The Raptors were an impressive 6-1 in the pre-season last year but ended up posting a 34-48 record in the games that count for something in the standings. They missed the playoffs for a fifth straight season.
The Knicks took a 79-77 lead into the final quarter after Toure Murry's one-handed prayer from centre court found the mark at the buzzer. The shot restored a New York lead, which climbed as high as 13 points earlier in the quarter before Toronto went on a nice run to bring the crowd back into it.
The Raptors, who host Memphis on Wednesday and finish the pre-season at Milwaukee on Friday, open the regular season on Oct. 30 when the Boston Celtics visit Air Canada Centre.
The Knicks took a 60-51 lead into the locker room at halftime as Metta World Peace had eight points in eight second-quarter minutes off the bench. The former Ron Artest, who signed a two-year deal with New York after four seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, hit a pair of three-pointers in the quarter.
The Knicks bench was the difference in the first half, outscoring their Raptors' counterparts 30-14.
The Raptors had led 30-29 after one quarter on the strength of Gay's 11 points and 10 from DeRozan.Suggest a correction