The evening would begin with a sloppy first quarter, but it would end with a sublime fourth period.

And in basketball, it isn’t so much how one starts, but how one finishes, which pretty much sums up Toronto’s night against visiting Memphis.

It was by no means pretty and too many areas of deficiencies would surface, but credit the Raptors for their perseverance, their late-game execution and ability to step up when a game was on the line.

The Grizzlies did the Raptors a lot of favours, unable to finish around the basket, failing to close out on shooters and not adjusting to Toronto’s pick and roll sequences.

But no one should dismiss Toronto’s fourth-quarter play on Friday, an evening that saw the home side emerge with a 99-86 win.

“I like our resilience, toughness, the way we stuck with it,’’ said head coach Dwane Casey of his team’s play in the final 12 minutes. “We competed on the offensive, we were physical and that’s the way you have to compete against a team like that.”

Earlier in the week, the same style of play was required against Brooklyn, but the Nets results weren’t as favourable, an occasion Casey believes set the table for Friday.

“We didn’t do it in Brooklyn and I admonish anyone who says Brooklyn is an easy team,’’ said the head coach.

“We didn’t have to repeat it too much about the physicality, how much they were going to get into it.’’ continued Casey. “Don’t look at the officials for help. Take care of your own business, get guys off you and set solid screens. It’s a man’s game in the paint. And if you don’t flex your muscles you’re going to get pushed around.”

Toronto outscored Memphis 28-19 in the fourth, led by the guard threesome of DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry and Greivis Vasquez, who combined for 20 points.

As the fourth quarter rolled around, the intensity increased, the need to execute more pronounced, the margin for error getting thinner with each possession.

Back and forth the teams went, the atmosphere inside the Air Canada Centre dripping with drama in a playoff-like feel.

When Vasquez failed to complete an old-fashioned three-point play mid-way through the quarter, the Raptors were leading 85-80.

A disjointed pick and roll sequence lead to an unexpected basket, paving the way for a series of missteps Memphis failed to parlay into points.

Vasquez made a great cross-court pass to a spot-up DeRozan, who was spot on with his three-ball, giving Toronto a 90-80 lead with 3:13 remaining, the first time the evening would feature a double digit advantage.

When threes are dropping, the Raptors are a dangerous team, one reason why they were able to be competitive in the third quarter, which featured the Grizzlies extending their defence and denying penetration.

No ball movement, no inclination to box out, no semblance of anything, no chance to compete, the Raptors were as inept as any team preparing for its first pre-season game.

The calendar is so far removed from exhibition play that it was shameful, downright pitiful, how Toronto played for most of the opening quarter.

It’s never a good sign when an opponent is able to haul down a missed free throw, go up strong and produce what turned out to be a three-point play.

But it unfolded, one of many offensive rebounds yielded by Toronto, a team that settled for jumpers, the one pass and heave variety instead of the swing the ball from side to side style of play necessary against most teams, let alone a side such as Memphis.

The biggest culprit was DeRozan, as unlikely as it seemed, his stat line as ugly as Toronto’s play, two turnovers, zero points on 0-for-2 shooting in the first quarter.

The opening 12 minutes ended with the Grizzlies leading, 24-19, holding the Raptors to under 40% shooting and outscoring their hosts 14-6 in paint points.

In a word, the Raptors were not good at either end of the floor, but runs are as inevitable as a bad call from the officials.

Once the Raptors began to play with a bit more pace, preventing the Grizzlies from setting up their defence, shots began to drop.

Naturally, it helped when ball movement became part of the offence, the glass was being controlled and defence was being played when hands became active and players moving their feet.

Jonas Valanciunas was by far the most active player on offence, rolling to the basket, draining the occasional deep jumper, assertive when he did operate on the block.

No matter how many open looks lead to made baskets, nothing is ever accomplished unless boards are controlled and defence is being played, two areas where the Raptors picked up their game decisively in the second period.

At the break, the Raptors were leading, 47-44, a differential that was fitting given how neither team was able to sustain any level of consistent play.

BIG V MAKES MEMPHIS PAY

Jonas Valanciunas is known as the Big V, an intriguing piece who remains a big mystery, but one who nonetheless has shown an ability to step up big.

When overmatched against a more seasoned post players, Toronto’s second-year centre is often overwhelmed, exposed and prone to getting into foul trouble.

He’ll battle and will always leave everything out on the floor, regardless of matchups.

Friday night against visiting Memphis, the Grizzlies basically forced the Raptors to get Valanciunas the ball by essentially trying to take Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan out of the game.

When teams come with help, areas on the floor open and opportunities exist.

Valanciunas was the beneficiary in Toronto’s 99-86 win, a well-earned victory that moved the Raptors 10 games over .500 at 37-27.

Valanciunas netted a game-high 23 points on 11-of-15 shooting, committing only one foul in close to 36 minutes while earning the praise from head coach Dwane Casey.

He was flashing to the post, stepping out and knocking down shots and competing in the paint.