For a while Monday night it looked like Dwane Casey was going to have to keep searching for answers from his bench.

Then a bunch of his much-maligned non-starters decided to step up and make a statement. They did even if Casey still wasn’t completely sold afterward.

Toronto’s reserves struggled mightily throughout the first five pre-season games and were hurting the Raptors again against the Knicks through the first half Monday.

There was a let-down early in the second quarter and another later.

But with Julyan Stone replacing D.J. Augustin at the point and Quincy Acy in at power forward Casey forsook some offence for better defence alongside bench regulars Tyler Hansbrough Landry Fields and Terrence Ross.

It worked.

That gritty group looked serviceable in a slugfest against the deep Knicks reserves. That was the best lineup of the ones that held serve in the fourth quarter then first and second overtimes of an eventual 123-120 squeaker over the Knicks.

Ross finished with 27 points the most he has scored in a Raptors uniform and Hansbrough 10 in a bizarre one.

Afterward Casey said he still wasn’t pleased with his reserves and still wants to see more though he did again speak highly of Stone who continues to make a case for himself.

Ross said the Hansbrough-Acy combination helped fuel the improved play later.

“We kind of grind it out (we’re) a scrappy group” said the second-year guard.

“I think it helps us because we’re fearless in there. It helps when we have (Acy) and Tyler because they go in there and fight anybody.”

Well maybe not anybody. Hansbrough turned away after getting tied up with the mercurial Metta World Peace at one point. A smart decision.

DeMar DeRozan the best Raptor again on the evening also liked what he saw.

“They did well. They had a couple of mistakes but they made up for it” DeRozan said.

“They were out there going hard.”