Memphis Grizzlies v Toronto Raptors

In a game that  redefined the words defensive struggle, both the Grizzlies and Raptors shot 36% from the field. Toronto’s five-game win streak comes to an end but there were some positives to draw from going toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in the Western Conference.

Grizzlies 88, Raptors 82

-The Raptors’ perimeter players  had a very tough time scoring and the combination of Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay actually combined to start the game 0-of-14. This was to be somewhat expected considering Memphis allows the fewest points in the league (88.5 per game). The air-tight defence led to a season-low 14 first quarter points for Toronto.

-Tony Allen had some harsh words for DeMar DeRozan when Rudy Gay called DeRozan the best 2-guard he’s ever played with, and Allen backed up those words on Wednesday night. He held DeRozan to a measly 7 points on 1-9 shooting. The Grizzlies’ help defence should also be given credit, as Randolph and Gasol not only shut down driving lanes but they switched on to DeRozan and Gay with great success all night.

-Rudy Gay did an admirable job on Marc Gasol in an isolation post-up with four minutes left in the game. He contested Gasol’s hook shot and then fought for the rebound. The problem was Toronto had a hard time taking advantage of that mismatch on the offensive end. I think it would have helped if Rudy was being isolated on the wing as opposed to the top of the key where it’s easier to bring help. Rudy had trouble finding quality shots (5-15 FG) against Tayshaun Prince all night but he still contributed in other areas with 9 rebounds, 3 assists and a steal.

-The defensive intensity in this game was summed up nicely by Tony Allen…

-Considering Kyle Lowry has played with Mike Conley, he should know that Conley can make three-pointers. Lowry repeatedly strayed too far from his man and continuously went under screens even after Conley made shots. For just the third time in the last nine games, Lowry took 10+ shots from the field. He has the ability to be a tremendous scorer, so on nights when Rudy and Demar are struggling (like tonight) Lowry should look for his own offence more often.

-Alan Anderson seems to have better shooting percentages when he’s taking difficult, contested shots late in the shot clock or late in the game. He hit two three four five straight shots with just over nine minutes left and his 15 straight points were just three shy of the team record. This isn’t the first time AA has gotten white-hot off the bench (OKC game comes to mind) and I’d like to see Toronto hold on to him through the deadline. He’s a better option than Terrence Ross *right now* for coach Casey because he has such a polished game.

-If  Bryan Colangelo makes one move tomorrow, it should be to address the backup point guard spot. John Lucas is not capable of defending his own position. It’s not clear whether Lucas can run an offence efficiently every night either, which is why BC should try to add depth behind Kyle Lowry – with a player such as Luke Ridnour, Kirk Hinrich or Beno Udrih.

-Ed Davis made a fitting return to Toronto. Within minutes of entering the game, Davis grabbed a rebound over top of Andrea Bargnani and put home two points. Bargnani was essentially useless for the Raptors, playing 22 scoreless minutes (0/4 FG), grabbing two rebounds and finishing with a team-worst -9 rating. Although the Raptors can make use of Bargnani as a reserve, I wouldn’t be disappointed in the least if he was traded for a pair of Nike’s.

-Despite gathering six rebounds in 18 minutes, Jonas Valanciunas once again had a hard time finding playing time in the second half. Dwane Casey instead opted to use Aaron Gray in the final minutes – a decision I continue to disagree with.

-Amir Johnson had another solid, consistent game. Consistency has become Amir’s middle name of late and although he and Bargs got abused by Z-Bo on the glass, Amir contributed at both ends, going 6-of-10 from the field for 16 points to go along with five rebounds and two blocks. He has now recorded at least one block in 15 straight games.

-If you’re feeling overly depressed about this loss, I have a couple of stats to cheer you up (H/T @MrTySmith). I know these are very small sample sizes (seven games), but still some very encouraging signs about Rudy Gay’s presence in the Raptors’ lineup. Coming into this contest with Memphis, Toronto’s net rating with Rudy Gay on the floor was +9.8 compared to -15.3 with him off the floor. That differential of 25 points would rank first in the NBA if it qualified, with LeBron James in second at +17.8. Toronto also ranks second in the league in points off of turnovers and in second chance points since adding Gay. This roster is extremely athletic and has a lot of potential for growth. If you haven’t already, now is a very good time to jump on the bandwagon, despite tonight’s loss.

Grizzlies Player Of the Game: Mike Conley – 17 Pts (4-10 FG, 3-6 3PT, 6-9 FT), 6 Reb, 6 Ast, 3 Stl, 1 Blk, 3 TO in 41:24

Raptors Player Of the Game: Alan Anderson – 19 Pts (6-7 FG, 4-5 3PT, 3-3 FT), 2 Reb, 1 TO in 19:26

The trade deadline hits at 3:00 PM ET on Thursday, so make sure to check RaptorBlog for all of the latest. The Raptors host the Knicks on Friday night and the Wizards on Monday night. The Raps have recent wins over both teams so expect a couple of competitive games. The Bucks fell to the Nets again on Wednesday night so Toronto is still 5 games back of 8th. 27 games to play.