When I looked at the Raptors schedule last week and spotted a road date with the Grizzlies, I naturally chalked up a loss in the ledger. Considering their recent play and opponent, it was a logical assumption.
I wish I was off-target, but there were no surprises with that forecast.
In a defensive tango, the Toronto Raptors fell to the Memphis Grizzlies 92-86 Wednesday night at the FedExForum. Overall, Toronto (27-15) played a sound brand of basketball as victory was within arms reach, but Memphis (30-12) prevailed in typical Grizzlies-like fashion – stout defense, turnovers and resolve.
The year 2015 has been very unforgiving to the sliding Raptors as they have now lost eight of their past eleven contests to mixed competition. Up next for Toronto is a road outing against the lowly Philadelphia 76ers followed by a home rematch with the Detroit Pistons.
Buckets don’t come easy against the gritty and grinding Grizzlies, who hold opponents to 98.0 ppg and an average .448 FG %. Memphis stout perimeter defense was in full effect, especially in the first half, as the Raptors only mustered 38 points on 33.3% shooting to go with an abysmal 2-14 from downtown. Toronto did most of their damage with speed, rebounding in the interior and the charity stripe but settled for too many contested shots and committed one too many turnovers (14). Toronto was led by Kyle Lowry who had 20 points, eight rebounds and three assists while Louis Williams was also effective as he finished the night with 21 points. Overall, the Raptors ended the match with an ugly 31.8 FG %.
This was one of Toronto’s better defensive outings as they held the opponent to under 100 points, an extreme rarity as of late. The Grizzlies are by no means an offensive powerhouse, but to my surprise they rank 12th overall in the association with 101.8 ppg. The Raptors held the Grizzlies key players in check, including Mike Conley and Zach Randolph who combined for 31 points. However, they had no solution for Marc “Big Spain” Gasol who torched them for 26 points, seven rebounds, five assists and two blocks. As a whole, Toronto held the Grizzlies to 45.% shooting and an impressive 1-7 from beyond the arch.
Outstanding. The Raptors dominated the boards, predominantly in the first quarter, against the intimidating and beastly Grizzlies frontcourt. Toronto outrebounded Memphis 50-45 and had 21 offensive rebounds compared to the nine amassed by Memphis. Jonas Valanciunas had 10 boards in his double double (12-10) and Patrick Patterson collected nine in the defeat.
Game Ball: Marc Gasol
Sorry, I hate to nominate the opposition, but Gasol was a key cog in the victory. The jack of all trades center showcased his scoring touch, play making, rebounding and defensive presence against Toronto. Nobody could stop him. He’s easily the most complete big man in the game and I’d love to see him in a Raptor uniform – sorry JV.