Game No. 36: Grizzlies 102, Raptors 99

It seems that whenever the Raptors and Grizzlies get together in Toronto, fans are treated to entertaining ball games and great finishes. Friday night at the Air Canada Centre was no different, as the teams traded runs and leads from start to finish before Memphis eventually pulled away in the final seconds.

At the end of the day, Raptors fans at the ACC got another solid effort from the Raps, another great basketball game, and another “good loss” for Tank Nation. Other than falling a point short of free Pizza Pizza, that sounds like a pretty good Friday night to me.

Now here are some thoughts on the game.

1- What a performance from the Raptors’ bench. If you want to know how the Raptors hung with a Western Conference playoff team in this one, look no further than the play of Toronto’s reserves. Jerryd Bayless, Leandro Barbosa, Linas Kleiza, Ed Davis and Jamaal Magloire combined to score 54 of the Raptors’ 99 points on over 62 per cent shooting, with Bayless, Barbosa and Kleiza scoring 43 between the three of them. In addition, every Raptor that came off the bench finished with a positive plus/minus.

2- As good as the bench was in this game, the starters may have been that bad. No Raptors starter scored more than 14 points, and while the bench shot over 62 per cent and had all five players on the positive side of plus/minus, the five starters combined to shoot 18-of-40 and were all on the negative side. After coming out of the gates flying to open the ball game, the five man starting unit never really clicked again after that.

3- Jerryd Bayless finally shook off some of his lingering rust with a very efficient 18 points (on 5-of-9 shooting) in just 18 minutes of action. Perhaps most encourarging was the fact that Bayless also dished out four assists without committing a single turnover. Hopefully this is the start of another impressive run for the 23-year-old, similar to the one he went on before re-aggravating his ankle injury. After all, I don’t think any of us can say for certain that Bayless has earned himself a spot on next year’s roster just yet.

4- Speaking of a guy who continues to shake off the rust, Linas Kleiza turned in yet another impressive outing on Friday night. Just two nights after scoring 21 points on seven-of-13 shooting in New Orleans, Kleiza put up 12 points and seven rebounds against the Rockets, though his three turnovers in 27 minutes were a cause for concern. If both Kleiza and Bayless can get back to the way they were playing before they left the lineup in February, the Raptors will boast a more than capable bench.

5- A few words on the Grizzlies. After an up and down start to their season (lose six of nine, win seven straight, lose seven of nine), Memphis finally looks to be playing consistent basketball, with their win at the ACC bringing them to 9-2 over their last 11 games (five of those wins have come against teams currently holding playoff positions). That little run now has the Grizzlies up to fifth in the Western Conference with a 21-15 record, just 1.5 games out of third place. And that’s largely without Zach Randolph in the lineup. If they can maintain a top-10 defence (currently 10th with 97.8 points allowed per 100 possessions) and reintegrate Randolph into their offence without much disruption, the Grizz may only be at the beginning of their climb up the West standings. Do I think they are as good as the Thunder? No, but they are deep enough and balanced enough to make another deep run this Spring, and yet they seem to be flying under the radar again.

6- Ed Davis hit a mid-range jump shot in the first half of this game, which actually got me thinking, has anyone noticed that slowly but surely, Davis has started to hit his short-range and mid-range jumpers? I feel like at the beginning of the season, Ed was bricking anything that wasn’t a layup or a dunk, and now seems to be hitting the occasional jump shot from time to time. I’m not going to pretend I think Davis is a capable mid-range player or anything close to it, but I would say it’s an encouraging sign to see some glimpses of it in his offensive arsenal. I’ve said for a while that if he can hit a short to mid-range jumper and gets consistent minutes, he could be a walking double-double. But it’s up to Ed to earn those minutes and expand that offensive game.

Raptors Player of the Game: Jerryd Bayless – 18 Min, 18 Pts, 5-9 FG, 1-3 3PT, 7-7 FT, 4 Ast

Grizzlies Player of the Game: Rudy Gay – 40 Min, 23 Pts, 8-15 FG, 0-1 3PT, 7-7 FT, 12 Reb, 4 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk, 2 TO