After dropping yet another game to the Chicago Bulls, the Toronto Raptors look to recover on their home court against the hard-nosed Memphis Grizzlies. Despite dropping their last two games the Raptors are still second in the East by a wide margin. The Grizzlies on the other hand are seeking a fourth consecutive road win, but they will have to do it without Marc Gasol who seems to be out for the rest of the season. The Grizzlies also acquired the unpredictable Lance Stephenson who’s more than capable of lighting it up if not paid attention to.
Cage’s Keys to the Game:
In their last game against the Bulls, the Raptors seemed to get outmuscled by the scrubs of the Windy City. Given that the two teams are in the bottom 10 in the league in personal fouls per game, the loose whistle was no surprise either. Tonight they take on yet another team known for their brutal physicality and tough defense. Despite being without their marquee center, the Grizz will hold nothing back. Let’s not forget about Zach Randolph who torched the Raptors for 18.5 points and 15.5 rebounds a game last season. Matching their intensity will be one of the keys for the Raptors in winning this game.
Play through JV
Last game Jonas Valanciunas was a bright spot as he finished with 25 points, 12 rebounds and was easily the Raps’ best player on the night. Without Gasol in his way Valanciunas will have the opportunity to establish himself in the post with ease. With the way he bullied Pau Gasol on Friday, he should be given the trust when he commands the ball. If JV can get going early, he will gain confidence and play better in other aspects of the game for his increased involvement.
Heat up from Downtown
The Raptors are the league’s third best three point shooting team at over 36%. So when they go 5 for 18 from downtown (as they did on Friday Night), they were clearly not on top of their game. Making threes gives a team momentum. Missing them leads to long rebounds, poor transition defense and fastbreak opportunities for the other team. That’s what happened the other night as the Raptors were often found scrambling on defense, but were ice cold from downtown.
X-Factor: Cory Joseph
Joseph has been the energizer bunny off of the bench for the Raptors this season. His tenacity and determination on the defensive end is a great compliment to his quickness and playmaking on offense. When the Raptors offense was stagnant on Friday night, it was him who came in and got them going through penetration and kick-outs. He played great defense as well although the true Derrick Rose seemed to show up against the Raptors yet again. Tonight he will need to light a fire under his squad and help stop Mike Conley who’s averaging 24 points and shooting over 55% in this last 3 games.