Archive for the ‘Memphis Grizzlies’ Category

Start time: 7:00 PM ET
Channel: TSN2
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, James Johnson, Amir Johnson, Aaron Gray
Memphis: Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Rudy Gay, Marreese Speights, Marc Gasol

Injury report

Toronto: Linas Kleiza and Andrea Bargnani are both day-to-day

Memphis: Darrell Arthur is out for the sesaon and Zach Randolph is expected to be out until mid-March

I’m under some tight time restraints so this will be a quick one…

Despite the fact that their best player, Zach Randolph, has missed 35 of their 39 games, the Grizzlies sit in seventh place in the West and just beat the defending champion Mavericks by double figures on Wednesday. They’re succeeding with a top-10 Defensive Ranking and a career season from Marc Gasol, who is averaging 15 points, 10 rebounds and three assists going into this game.

Where they haven’t been quite so successful this season is in road games, where they have a 6-10 record going into tonight. This could mean that it’s a winnable game for the Raptors, but it’s hard to maintain confidence in that when you look at the talent disparity between the two teams.

DeMar DeRozan is averaging 22.8 points over his last five games, but I’ll be very surprised if he matches that figure tonight with Tony Allen guarding him. This has the potential to be one of those games where the Raptors have long painful stretches with a field goal.

Apropos of nothing, here’s the “Dwight Howard Cookie Challenge”, courtesy of @jose3030.

O.J. Mayo and Rudy GayNine hundred and eighty-six games. That’s how long the NBA’s most meaningless streak lasted until it ended last night at the Air Canada Centre. I’m referring, of course, to the Toronto Raptors’ consecutive game streak for making at least one three-pointer.

Every time I heard either Chuck Swirsky or Matt Devlin refer to this ridiculous streak either because a Raptor made the team’s first three-pointer of the game or because the Raptors had yet to make one and it was the fourth quarter, I felt a little embarrassed to be a Raptors fan. This is what we hang our hats on? The fact that this streak was incessantly brought up was only slightly less irritating than somebody telling me how many days in a row he’d had a bowel movement. I can’t come up with a form of measurement that would describe how little I cared about this “accomplishment”.

Considering the team, doesn’t it figure that the game the Raptors can’t make a single three-pointer (out of 13 attempts) is the one where they lose by two points? It would be funny if this wasn’t the team’s eighth loss in a row and if I was capable of finding anything humourous about the state of the franchise.

Last night’s loss gave the Raptors a 2-9 record this season in games decided by five points or fewer. Not that this team wins a lot of blowouts either, but crunch-time is clearly not a comfort zone for this squad. Rudy Gay, on the other hand, appears to have ice water in his veins. He beat the Heat with a last-second shot on Nov. 20 and he did it again with this dagger that left 0.8 seconds on the clock. Note: This is a hilarious and profane fan video of the winning shot, so make sure you put your headphones on if you’re attempting to watch this at work.

Read the rest of this entry »

While the doom and gloom of an extended losing streak looms over Toronto, it is important to remember that the ACC faithful (a measly 14 127) were actually treated to another great basketball game on Monday night.

The Raptors, who played only eight players due to an assortment of injuries, made it clear early on that they were not the same team that was drilled by a combined 57 points over the weekend, but rather the scrappy young team we came to know over the first month or so of the season.

Led by DeMar DeRozan, Jerryd Bayless and Andrea Bargnani, the Raptors got off to a fast start, and led by as many as nine in the opening quarter. Predictably, the Grizzlies made a run to close out the first to take a one-point lead into the second quarter. The Raptors continued their hard-working first half, but still trailed by two at the break.

Toronto had actually played tough defence in the first half, but saw that D slip in the third quarter and beginning of the fourth, as the Grizzlies opened up a 12-point advantage with about eight minutes to play.

The Raptors responded with a spirited effort to close out the ball game, going on a 11-0 run over the next three-and-a-half minutes and even taking the lead in the last three minutes of the game.

With the teams exchanging buckets and stops down the stretch, the Grizzlies found themselves with the last possession of the ball game, tied at 98. Rudy Gay then proved his worth by nailing a 15-foot, contested jumper from the right corner with just 0.8 seconds left.

A last-ditch effort to get a shot off failed for the Raptors, who saw their losing streak hit eight games; their longest such streak in five years.

If there is one thing the Raptors have become known for, (besides horrible defence, losing star players and European teams) it is likely losing heart-breakers at home. Seriously, someone should research this stat, because I’d be willing to bet that in the last five years or so, few teams have lost more games within three points on their home floor than the Raptors have.

Two moments in the final couple of minutes stuck out to me. First, with Ed Davis playing great defence on Zach Randolph down the stretch and getting his hands on loose balls, you would think that a defensive substitution to get Amir Johnson into the game would pull Bargnani out, not Davis. But Jay Triano replaced Davis with Amir, who had five fouls, and on the next play, the Grizzlies got an offensive rebound that looked to be tapped by Randolph. Memphis ended up with two points out of the extra possession, and on the next defensive possession, it was Bargnani who came out of the game.

After that play, the Raptors had a chance to tie, but ended up with another broken play out of a late timeout. It’s a shame we have to keep harping on this, but it truly is getting ridiculous that an NBA team can’t seem to run a competent play with the game on the line. As I’ve said before, either Triano can’t draw up a play under pressure, or his players aren’t listening to what he wants done. Either way, that’s an issue with coaching if you ask me.

Though they may be hard to acknowledge in another loss, there were plenty of positives for the Raptors on Monday night. Bargnani seemed to find his touch around the basket again, and started knocking down his jumpers early, to finish with 29 points. DeMar DeRozan continued his improvement with a 25-point, nine rebound, two block performance. Jerryd Bayless came within two rebounds of a triple-double, and registered career highs with 11 assists and eight rebounds in his start in place of the injured Jose Calderon. Ed Davis was solid defensively and finished with five blocks, including a couple of monster denials of Randolph.

And what more can you say about Julian Wright? He was efficient in the few shots he did take, led the charge defensively, rebounded the ball well and even threw in a couple of blocks (the Raptors actually had 11 blocks overall). Most of all, Wright continued to earn the fans’ respect with what are termed “hustle-plays,” which included him ripping the ball out of Grizzlies’ hands on multiple occasions. If this guy hasn’t earned a starting spot on this team, then this coaching staff is either blind, or has serious issues.

On a negative note, Sundiata Gaines was not good at all in relief of Bayless, and looked for his own shot too often. He also chucked two airball threes. Sonny Weems returned from his 17-game absence in ugly fashion. Weems missed the only two shots he took (both jumpers), turned the ball over once and finished minus-10…in just eight minutes played. I understand he was likely trying to play through rust, but let’s not pretend like he was playing well before injury. He had already done enough to play his way out of the rotation.

Two more things before I go. As you’ve probably heard by now, the Raptors’ (meaningless) NBA record 986-game three-point streak came to an end on Monday night. I’ll put this the nicest way I can: there are plenty of smart basketball fans in Toronto and in Canada, and then there are the type that care about things like that streak.

Lastly, after all that, I think it’s safe to say that in the grand scheme of things, that game went to perfection for the Raptors. The young guys were forced to play heavy minutes due to injuries, the team put in a commendable effort and provided quality entertainment for the fans, and yet the resulting loss should help draft positioning. As of right now, the Raptors would likely land the fifth pick.

Raptors Player of the Game: Julian Wright – 41 Min, 11 Pts, 5-7 FG, 1-4 FT, 9 Reb, 1 Ast, 2 Blk (Bayless, Bargs and DeRozan had flashier numbers, but Wright was the engine that drove the team tonight)

Grizzlies Player of the Game: Rudy Gay – 39 Min, 21 Pts, 8-20 FG, 2-4 3Pt, 3-4 FT, 7 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk

Goat of the Game: Sundiata Gaines – 17 Min, 6 Pts, 3-10 FG, 0-4 3Pt, 3 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 TO

Zach Randolph

On Sunday, writer John Schuhmann tweeted “Congrats to the Phoenix Suns, who now rank 29th in defensive efficiency. Your new No. 30, the Toronto Raptors, know that spot well.” Indeed they do, as the Raptors finished dead last in the NBA in defensive efficiency (points allowed per 100 possessions) last season as well. In spite of all the new faces, the Raptors’ team defence still stinks and their offensive efficiency has declined from fifth overall last season to 16th in the league according to Schuhmann’s latest power rankings.

Whatever you think of Chris Bosh, it’s become clear that he wasn’t one of the main reasons for the Raptors’ porous defence last season. He’s now one of the main cogs on a team that currently has the fifth-best defence in the league. What hasn’t changed from last season for the Raptors is that Andrea Bargnani, DeMar DeRozan and Jose Calderon are still getting major minutes, Jay Triano is still the coach, and Bryan Colangelo is the architect of this mess.

It’s inevitable that Jay Triano will end up taking the fall for how this season has turned out, regardless of what kind of expectations most reasonable people had for this team going into the season. Without question, Triano should not be classified as a coach that knows how to effectively teach his players a sound defensive scheme. However, a man can only do so much with what this roster gives him to work with. If somebody like Scott Skiles or Gregg Popovich was coaching this team, I suspect he would give Colangelo a list of players and say, “Trade these guys. I can’t coach them to play the right way and you should get rid of them before I bench them and kill their value.”

I don’t know how many consecutive losses need to pile up (the Raptors are on a seven-game skid) before Colangelo puts Triano out of his misery, but I caution Raptors fans not to get too excited if the axe falls before the end of the season. Whatever you think of Triano, I really don’t think he’s anything close to the main problem. Do I think he’s the man who can eventually lead this team into championship contention one day? No, I don’t. But hardly anybody thought Doc Rivers was “a championship-level coach” and just look at him now. No coach can turn lumps of coach into diamonds — and whoever you think the brightest gem is on this team, he’s cubic zirconia at best.

Sorry for the gloomy introduction to this game thread, but I talked to some people over the past few days who seem to think that getting rid of Triano would make a noticeable difference in this team’s performance. I assure you that’s not the case, but it’s getting to the point that Colangelo would probably be doing Jay a favour by handing him his walking papers. He’ll probably never have another head coaching gig in this league, but I bet he’ll be happier when he’s an assistant on another team next season.

And so much for all that rubbish. Hey, there’s a game tonight! The Raptors kick off a three-game homestand facing the better-than-you-might-think Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizz have won two in a row and seven of their last 11, and they have to feel like they need to win games like this one if they’re going to make up the three-and-a-half games separating them and Portland for the eighth seed in the West.

The Grizzlies are far from an offensive powerhouse, but they do have a pair of 20 points-per-game scorers in Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay who are probably licking their lips at the opportunity to put up big numbers tonight. And the Raptors had better protect the rock tonight since Memphis leads the league with 9.3 steals per game.

Injury report

Toronto: Joey Dorsey and Linas Kleiza are listed as questionable for tonight with knee problems, while Sonny Weems and Leandro Barbosa are both still M.I.A.

Memphis: Xavier Henry is questionable with a sore right knee.

Five questions

1. If the NBA gave out “Worst Eastern Conference Player of the Week” awards, would Andrea Bargnani win for last week’s stat line? In four games, he averaged 16 points, 4.8 rebounds and a block per game while shooting 30.7 percent from the field.

2. Do you think Colangelo should fire Triano if the Raptors’ losing streak reaches double digits?

3. If Rudy Gay (who the Raptors could have drafted instead of Bargnani in the 2006 draft) has a big game tonight, will somebody catch Colangelo facepalming to hide his tears?

4. Speaking of draft mistakes, how much better would the Grizzlies be if they hadn’t wasted their second overall pick in 2009 on Hasheem Thabeet?

5. Does anybody still think moving the Grizzlies to Memphis was a good idea? They currently rank 25th in average attendance.

Start time: 7:00 PM ET
Channel: TSN
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Julian Wright, Amir Johnson, Andrea Bargnani
Memphis: Mike Conley, Rudy Gay, Sam Young, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol

Today is my father’s 65th birthday, so here’s a Paul McCartney performance of The Beatles’ “Birthday” song for him. He never did tell me what he wanted for his birthday, so I’ll give him a shout-out here along with my gratitude for supporting me in whatever the hell I thought I was doing when I started this blog in 2002. Unfortunately, my attention to this team helped turn him into a Raptors fan — and needless to say, they’ve provided him with more grief than joy over the years. I think a game-winning shot by Jose Calderon tonight (probably his favourite player on the team if he had to pick one) would be a better birthday present than anything I could have bought him.

Memphis Grizzlies

Heidi ho, friends and haters. I hope you’ve enjoyed getting your nog on these past few days. Myself, I can’t believe I won’t technically be back to work until next Tuesday. Completely unrelated question: Does anybody know if family homicide rates tend to rise this time of year? Nevermind, don’t answer that.

The Raptors play their first of three straight road games tonight — six of their next seven games are on the road. You might think the Raptors’ playoff chances have already been disintegrated by their 10-19 record, but they’re actually only 2 1/2 games behind Milwaukee for eighth place in the Eastern Conference. However, the Raptors’ 3-10 road record combined with the fact that they play Dallas, Chicago and Boston (twice) during this seven-game stretch means that reality is probably going to come crashing down like my Christmas tree after my four-year-old bum-rushed it during a glucose-induced frenzy.

Andrea Bargnani didn’t join the Raptors on this first three-game trip as he’s nursing a strained calf muscle. In his place, the Raptors signed journeyman forward Ronald Dupree to a non-guaranteed contract. OK, maybe “in his place” isn’t the right choice of words, but Dupree is expected to be in the lineup against the Grizzlies tonight. If Dupree gets any playing time while he’s under contract, it will be his first regular season NBA action since April 11, 2008 when he played five minutes for the Seattle Supersonics and grabbed three rebounds.

Injury report

Toronto: Bargnani is out for tonight, while Amir Johnson, Sonny Weems and Jerryd Bayless are all questionable. J-Bay reportedly acquired food poisoning last week after askingĀ  his Twitter followers for advice on where he should eat. Nice job, Internet!

Memphis: No injuries reported, although I suspect that Zach Randolph probably overdid it on the sweet potatoes this past weekend so we can expect that he’ll be a bit sluggish.

Five questions

1. Is Mike Conley going to be worth that five-year, $45 million contract extension which was widely panned when it was announced at the beginning of November? He’s averaging 14.0 points, 7.1 assists and 2.0 steals per game so far this season — and the only other players to match or top those averages this season are Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Raymond Felton and John Wall.

2. Did you know that Zach Randolph has more double-doubles (18) this season than everyone on the Raptors combined? Johnson has four, Calderon has three, Bargnani has one, Evans has one, Davis has one and Dorsey has one.

3. When the Grizzlies played the Timberwolves earlier this season, do you think Darko Milicic looked at fellow second overall draft pick Hasheem Thabeet and thought, “Man, that dude’s a bust!”

4. Has anyone made the “Don we now our gay apparel” joke to Rudy Gay yet this holiday season?

5. Did your Christmas dinner look better than the one Julian Wright’s mom made him?

Start time: 8:00 PM ET
Channel: Sportsnet One
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Linas Kleiza, Joey Dorsey, Amir Johnson
Memphis: Mike Conley, Xavier Henry, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol

Your pregame song for tonight is “Feel It” by Memphis’ own Three 6 Mafia, featuring Tiesto, Sean Kingston and Flo Rida. Watching this video, I’m wondering if I should have just spent my week off in Vegas.