If you’re a fan of the Toronto Raptors, this was a great game to watch. Tonight, the Raptors put out their most solid effort of the 2013-2014 season thus far against the Memphis Grizzlies, and managed to get a 103-87 win in Rudy Gay‘s first return to the FedExForum since being traded to Toronto. Though the Raptors did not play absolutely perfect, there are a ton of positives to take away from this one.
Regardless of the fact that it would have been nice to see the Raptors put up more assists in tonight’s game (they only had 14 assists), ball movement appeared to be a point of emphasis. Thank goodness this team did not forgot this focus for an extended period of time. Shot distribution was significantly better than it was against the Houston Rockets a couple nights ago. The isolation style of play should not be abused by the Raptors; it’s that simple. When the Raps mix things up on offense, they can actually be quite fun to observe. Avoiding falling in love with one-on-one/one-on-five play was instrumental in getting Toronto this W.
Against the Grizzlies tonight, Rudy Gay dropped a cool 23 points on 8 of 18 shooting and he dished out 4 assists. The “one-person-hold-on-to-the-ball-for-fifteen-seconds” offensive sets were not as apparent tonight as they have been in the past. This is a very good thing. In the winning effort, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry also chipped in 18 and 21 points respectively; combining to shoot 13 for 23 from the field.
Following up a great defensive effort against the Rockets on Monday night, Toronto limited the Grizzlies to just 87 points on 43% shooting. Things did happen to get shaky on this side of the floor on occasion in this game, but as a whole, the defensive intensity was pretty sound tonight— the Raptors had 12 steals as well as 6 blocks in this matchup. Beyond Mike Conley lighting up Toronto for 29 points, Memphis really had to earn good looks on offense. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph both finished with double-doubles, but were slowed down enough for the Raptors survive the disadvantage at the power forward and center positions.
Also, it must be noted that Terrence Ross has been playing awesome defense on opposing wing players these past couple of games. The Grizzlies shot only 6 for 21 from long range, and many of these misses have to be credited to quick closeouts on shooters. I’m personally glad that Dwane Casey has been taking notice of Ross’ hard work as of late. I really hope that this sort of play becomes more of the norm.
I was quite close to giving the Raptors a lower grade than A- in this area, but the 4th quarter tonight was really convincing. The Raptors went into the final frame leading by a score of 78-71 (after a sort of shaky third quarter), and then cracked down on defense, limiting Memphis to only 16 points in the period; clinching the W in the process.
The effort on the glass was decent tonight. The Grizzlies have a roster that could have potentially raised a problem for the Raptors in this area, but Toronto was able to weather the storm. The Raps grabbed 37 rebounds tonight, with 9 of them coming on offense. This was enough to subside the 40 boards that Memphis grabbed as a team. Jonas Valanciunas led the way for Toronto with 7 rebounds against a tough Memphis front-court.
Gay showed up in his return to Memphis. To go along with his 23 points and 4 assists, Rudy Gay also had 5 steals, 6 rebounds, and 2 blocks tonight. This should be a game he emulates more often— he still got his looks on offense, but things were a lot smoother when he elected not to force his shot. He got his teammates involved, and really looked like a leader on the floor.