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Last July, F1 teams held in-season testing sessions at Silverstone to assess new tires provided by Pirelli after several blowouts on the same circuit at the British Grand Prix in June prompted a furious response from drivers and even a boycott threat the following week.TORONTO - For Dwane Casey and his club, this years preseason takes on a new importance as they prepare for the franchises most anticipated campaign in over a decade. The result of their eight-game exhibition slate - beginning with Sundays win over the Kings - is inconsequential, as much or more so than usual. Priority number one remains the same, albeit more crucial than ever before: come out of it in one piece. After that, the devil is in the details. The month of October, often criticized by coaches and players alike for its lengthy preseason schedule, affords the Raptors an opportunity to fine-tune their product before its put to the ultimate test in just over three weeks time. We still have a lot of work to do on the defensive end, Casey preached after his teams bittersweet 99-94 victory. I was disappointed. Whether we win, lose or draw is not important in these types of games, but what is very important is our defensive approach and I thought we didnt do it. After getting off to a quick start in front of a sellout crowd in Vancouver - thanks in large part to the familiarity of a unit that started 50 games together in 2013-14 - the Raptors fell victim to the missing quarter, in this case the third, a thorn in their side a year ago. For the first time that evening the preseason rust that you expect to see this early was evident. With the exception of the well-conditioned DeMar DeRozan, who was in midseason form coming off a busy summer, the quarter was filled with lazy paces, heavy legs, and sloppy defensive possessions. Toronto missed its first six shots to begin the second half, shooting just 31 per cent in the third quarter, but more concerning was the defensive effort and Sacramentos dominance on the boards. The Kings hit 12 of 20 attempts in the frame, out-rebounded Toronto 16-3 and turned a five-point halftime deficit into a seven-point lead going into the fourth. We didnt come out in the third quarter, Casey said, with that defensive intensity and that zeal that youve got to have if youre building something. Defensively, weve got some things to clean up, echoed Kyle Lowry. With an elite backcourt in DeRozan and Lowry, an emerging centre in Jonas Valanciunas and a restocked second unit, Casey knows he has the firepower to put points on the board. In other words, offence is not a concern. The focus for Torontos coaching staff during the first week of camp has been, and will continue to be, on the defensive end and on the boards. Even this early in the preseason, Casey had been looking at Sundays game - and Tuesdays rematch in Sacramento - as something of a litmus test in the trenches, where the Kings excel and the Raptors struggled through stretches last season. Led bby DeMarcus Cousins and former Raptor Reggie Evans, Sacramento - ranked fifth in offensive rebounding a year ago - bested Toronto 45-30 on the glass.dddddddddddd Predictably, that was the first topic Casey broached after the win and should be the basis of this weeks practice sessions when the team returns to Toronto on Wednesday. The real concern, going back to the teams chief preseason priority - staying healthy - will be the status of Terrence Ross. The third-year starter got tangled up with Kings guard Ramon Session late in the fourth quarter and limped to the locker room with what the medical staff diagnosed as a right knee contusion. Hes okay, Casey assured the inquiring media Sunday night. But thats what you want to avoid. Ross, like Patrick Patterson - who missed the game with a sore hand - is day-to-day. Lost in their incomplete victory, the bumps and bruises and Caseys post-game diatribe, the Raptors also showed Rudy Gay and the Kings whats made them one of the leagues most resilient clubs since last winters franchise-altering trade. With their new and improved second unit on the floor, Toronto regained control of the game in the final quarter, holding Sacramento to 27 per cent shooting while scoring 31 points without committing a turnover themselves. Newcomer Lou Williams, who missed all four of his attempts in 16 minutes through three quarters, played the entire fourth, scoring 11 of his 12 points. Bringing his usual brand of toughness and energy, Tyler Hansbrough added nine points, even knocking down a rare three-pointer from the corner, something hes been working on over the summer. Returning Raptor James Johnson honed in on his role as the teams lockdown perimeter defender while Greivis Vasquez commanded the group with some masterful passing and pick-and-roll execution. It was nice to go up against some other guys, said back-up centre Greg Stiemsma, who scored three points and fouled out in 17 spirited minutes during his Raptors debut. Our training camp has been really competitive and I figured that was going to translate over well and it did. We got down by a couple points, made a come back, held the lead and it just says how were going to gut things out all year. I was really impressed with the second unit in the fourth quarter, Casey added. Thats who we have to be. And I know its exhibition [and] its hard to get ramped up. But good teams do it. And thats the caveat. This camp is different than any other Casey has directed as a head coach. Its different than any other DeRozan, now entering his sixth year, has participated in. More is expected from them this season and this is the first step in ensuring theyre equipped to withstand the pressure. ' ' '