Archive for the ‘Memphis Grizzlies’ Category

The lifting of the NBA’s moratorium as of midnight today means that all signings, re-signings and trades that went down before July 11 can finally become official, which means a guy like Kyle Lowry should be an official Raptor soon enough (if he isn’t already by the time you read this) and the Knicks will now have three days to match the three-year offer sheet to Landry Fields.

One of the new developments that emerged almost immediately after midnight is that Jerryd Bayless has agreed to a new contract with the Grizzlies.

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We’re just over a month into an off-season that follows a 23-43 season, but if the rumours and reports that have emerged over the last few weeks have any shred of truth to them, this summer could be one of the most interesting and active NBA off-seasons Toronto has seen in a long while.

Heck, the Raptors have been linked to Steve Nash and Jeremy Lin already, and we’re still three-and-a-half weeks away from the Draft, let alone free agency. However, as most already know, trades can take place between two teams as soon as the teams involved have seen their seasons come to an end.

Which is where this latest Raptors-related rumour gets interesting.

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He just wanted it more

Game No. 44: Raptors 114, Grizzlies 110 (OT)

After a nasty second half showing in New Jersey on Wednesday night, the Raptors had to put up with the playoff-bound Grizzlies in Memphis, who were welcoming Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay back to the lineup on Friday night. Throw in the fact that the Raps were still without Jose Calderon and were obviously without the recently traded Leandro Barbosa, and the odds were stacked against them.

As you can see, things didn’t exactly go according to script.

Here are some thoughts on the game.

1- The Raptors responded to one of their worst halves of the season (second half against the Nets on Wednesday) with what was easily one of the their most complete efforts of the year in Memphis. The Raps set the tone early, hit the Grizzlies first, continued to hit back after the Grizz responded and continued to fight for every possession, every loose ball, and seemingly every single point. It was an inspiring effort from the young Raptors, especially from Jerryd Bayless and Gary Forbes, and even though the team made some costly mistakes down the stretch, you have to give them credit for finding a way to eek this one out given the circumstances. Imagine how emotionally draining and uplifting this game would have been in the thick of a meaningful playoff race?

2- Jerryd Bayless has had games where he’s scored more than the 28 he poured in against the Grizzlies on Friday, but as far as I’m concerned, that was the best all around game I’ve ever seen the young guard play. 28 points on over 50 per cent shooting, nine assists, six rebounds, nine free throw attempts, and he was without question, the engine that pushed this team forward towards a scrappy road W. The defensive intensity and dribble-penetration dynamic that Bayless brings to the point guard position is a welcomed sight for Raptors fans, and a must in today’s NBA if you want to be a successful team. I’m not suggesting that Jerryd Bayless is a better point guard than Jose Calderon, because he’s not, but for all the praise heaped on Calderon, Bayless brings a lot to the table that Jose simply does not. As I tweeted during the game, while Bayless makes his fair share of questionable decisions playing the point, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a guy who wants it as bad as he does.

And about those questionable in-game decisions Bayless is known for, he’s actually recorded 32 assists to just nine turnovers in the four games he’s started in place of Calderon. That’s a 3.55 assist-to-turnover ratio.

3- Jerryd Bayless definitely deserves praise for his performance, but we have to acknowledge the work Gary Forbes put in as well. We all talked about the opportunity that Barbosa’s trade opened up for Forbes, and on Friday night in Memphis, Gary made good on his end of the bargain with a career-high 20 points on an incredibly efficient nine shots. Forbes actually took more free throw attempts (11) than field goal attempts (nine). He also hit some big buckets and attacked the basket when the Raptors were desperate for a make. In terms of the post-Barbosa future, you couldn’t have asked for much more from Bayless and Forbes in game no. 1.

4- Between the five second count against the Lakers and the iffy lane violation call on the Raptors late in this game, you have to wonder if NBA officials are proud members of Raptors Tank Nation. In all seriousness though, as has become the custom in closely contested ball games, the Raptors attempted many less free throws than the opposition. The Raps went to the line a respectable 38 times. Though it’s hard to call that respectable when the Grizzlies went their 51 times. I don’t think the officiating was as unbalanced as those numbers suggest, but at the same time, I don’t think one team was playing more physical or less physical to the extent that those numbers suggest either.

5- A few words on the Grizzlies. This team is good. Like, legitimately good. If healthy, they could easily go on another deep playoff run this Spring. To me, the Thunder are still the class of the Western Conference, the Spurs are still the team that poses the biggest threat to the Thunder, and the Lakers are still dangerous enough to win the West if things bounce their way. But realistically looking at teams’ rosters, overall talent and depth, it’s tough to come up with a team in the West better than the Grizzlies from top to bottom. Would I put money on them to win the West? No. But I wouldn’t be shocked to see them fight their way into the Conference Final. This is one of the teams I’m really looking forward to watching down the stretch.

6- If you’ve been a regular RaptorBlog visitor this season, you know I’m as big a Tank Nation proponent as you’ll find. Games won on the backs of veterans are incredibly frustrating in a rebuilding year. Games won against fellow lottery teams when the Raptors don’t even play well enough to deserve a win do nothing for me. But Tank Nation member or not, it’s hard to search for negatives in a hard fought victory like this that saw the Raptors outwork and upset a legitimate Western Conference playoff team on the road, especially when the victory came as a result of the work put in by two players in Bayless and Forbes that could be pieces of the team’s future.

And if even all of that can’t cheer you up, fellow Tank Nation members, then just look at the NBA scoreboard for Friday night, where you’ll see that the Kings matched the Raptors by upsetting the Celtics.

Raptors Player of the Game: Jerryd Bayless – 44 Min, 28 Pts, 9-17 FG, 3-5 3PT, 7-9 FT, 6 Reb, 9 Ast, 3 Stl, 1 Blk, 3 TO, 6 PF

Grizzlies Player of the Game: Rudy Gay – 40 Min, 26 Pts, 10-20 FG, 3-5 3PT, 3-4 FT, 11 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk, 4 TO, 6 PF (Zach Randolph or Marc Gasol could have been given the nod here)

Start time: 8:00 PM ET
Channel: Sportsnet One
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jerryd Bayless, DeMar DeRozan, James Johnson, Andrea Bargnani, Amir Johnson
Memphis: Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Rudy Gay, Marreese Speights, Marc Gasol

Injury report

Toronto: Jose Calderon probably won’t play tonight.

Memphis: Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay are expected to return to the Grizzlies lineup tonight.

Zach Randolph hasn’t played since New Year’s Day, but he’s expected to start his comeback from a torn MCL tonight against the Raptors. The Grizzlies will probably limit his minutes in his first few games back, but they’ve managed to hang onto fourth place in the West while he was out, so they figure to be a significant force in the playoffs if everyone stays healthy.

The Raptors begin their post-Barbosa era tonight, and if Calderon is still out, then Gary Forbes will probably get some burn. Memphis is very good at home (15-6 this season) and they’ve beaten the Raptors in their last six matchups, so the outcome of this game shouldn’t be hard to forecast.

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I’m going to send you into the weekend with some Pau Gasol karaoke, just because…

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