After playing a competitive first half, the Raptors were shelled in the third quarter and eventually dropped a 21-point decision to the NBA-leading Grizzlies.

Here are some thoughts on the game:

Grizzlies 103, Raptors 82

- The most obvious storyline from this game is that the Raptors were without Primo whipping boy Andrea Bargnani, who missed out with a sore ankle. Ed Davis got the start in Bargnani’s place, finishing with 10 points on 3-of-4 shooting to go along with six rebounds, a block, four turnovers and four fouls in about 28 minutes of action. I’ve been waiting to see what a frontcourt of Davis and Jonas Valanciunas would look like playing extended minutes together, and they didn’t look good tonight, but I can’t say I really expected much from them against one of the best big man combos in the league.

- Valanciunas, especially, had trouble matching up against both Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph a night after having trouble with Omer Asik. If there’s one thing I’ve noticed about JV’s defence (and something that Oliver frequently mentions), it’s that he can’t defend the spin-move right now. He can generally keep other bigs in front of him and maintains good positioning, but when the opposing player spins, Jonas seems to get lost.

- I mentioned the horrible third quarter. The Raptors went into halftime down one after trading slight leads with the Grizzlies for most of the first half, but were promptly dominated in the third frame. The deficit quickly swelled to double digits as the Raptors’ defensive focus waned and the offence became stagnant, and the Grizzlies finished with a 33-14 advantage in the third quarter to take a 20-point lead to the fourth.

Over the last two nights, the Raptors have been outscored 71-42 in third quarters.

- I don’t believe for a second that Kyle Lowry is 100 per cent healthy right now. He seems to have lost quite a bit of his quick burst that usually helps him blow by helpless defenders and get to the rim on offence, and he doesn’t look anything like the defensive hawk he usually is at the point. To make matters worse, Lowry took a hand to the eye in the fourth quarter and when cameras caught him at the end of the game, the eye appeared to be pretty swollen.

- Terrence Ross followed up his impressive performance in Houston with a poor shooting night in Memphis, but it was at least nice to see Dwane Casey stick with the rookie for 30 minutes despite that shooting. For his part, Ross was looking to chip in in other areas of the game, and added three steals, a couple of rebounds and a couple of assists to his eight points. I’m not in favour of simply handing rookies minutes when they don’t deserve them, but if Ross continues to bust his tail on the defensive end, I have no problem with him getting the opportunity to work through his offensive kinks, especially with Landry Fields and Alan Anderson out of the wing rotation for now.

- Linas Kleiza got the start tonight in place of Dominic McGuire, and while he started the game by establishing good post positioning and going to work in the right areas, it took only a few more minutes to see the Kleiza we’ve gotten all too used to – Horrible shot selection, limited defence, all around low basketball IQ. “Long-two Linas” finished with 11 points on 5-of-15 shooting in 25:28 of floor time. I’m not exactly thrilled about the Raptors reportedly being interested in Mickael Pietrus, but at the same time, it can’t get much worse than Toronto’s current revolving door at the small forward position.

- Their bench leaves something to be desired, but if they stay healthy, it’s hard not to like the Grizzlies this season. I don’t think they can be seen as the favourites out West, even with their record, but I do think they’re capable of winning the Conference if they get a break here or there. Memphis has one of the best and most balanced starting lineups in the Association, they have one of the best froncourts – if not the best – in the league, they have a good wing scorer in Rudy Gay and one of the NBA’s best defenders in Tony Allen. Again, staying healthy will be the key, as the Grizzlies always seem to suffer an injury to one of their indispensable key players.

Raptors Player of the Game: DeMar DeRozan – 16 Pts, 5/10 FG, 2/3 3PT, 4/4 FT, 4 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 TO in 31:43 (DeRozan wasn’t even that good, and I seriously considered not even including a player of the game for the Raps)

Grizzlies Player of the Game: Zach Randolph – 17 Pts, 7/10 FG, 3/4 FT, 13 Reb, 6 Ast, 1 Stl, 2 TO in 30:58 (Marreese Speights also made a strong case with 18 and 12 in just 24 minutes)

If you’ve been reading RaptorBlog recently or if you follow me on twitter, then you’ll know that I think any realistic hopes of competing for a playoff spot might have evaporated already when the Raptors lost both games at Charlotte and Detroit last week, but this Friday’s game against Phoenix really will be the season on the line, no matter how early it is.

The Raptors currently stand at a pitiful 3-13, and after the home game against the Suns, they head out on a five-game Western road trip that likely won’t be kind to them. If they can take care of Phoenix at the ACC and possibly steal a road game at either Utah, Sacramento or Portland (I wouldn’t bet on it), they can escape this hellacious 22-game stretch 5-17 or better, which is obviously horrible, but is close enough to the 7-15 record that I thought they needed to maintain.

Should they lose to the Suns, we’re probably looking at a 3-19 or 4-18 team at best after 22 games, and there is absolutely no way back from those depths.