Starting in Bargnani’s place Monday night was Joey Dorsey although Triano said it would basically be a three-man rotation of bigs with Dorsey and Amir Jonhson to start and rookie Ed Davis coming in early to try and keep fresh legs on the court.
Triano could have started either Dorsey or Davis but went with the bigger of the big options.
“When you look at the fact that they have Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph down below, we have to put a little size on them, hopefully keep them off the glass and see if we can neutralize some of their inside play … And we’re going to have to share the minutes anyway with Ed,” Triano said.
For Dorsey it was just the second start of the season, his first coming Nov. 28 in a loss at home to Atlanta.
In that game Dorsey played just under 20 minutes and finished with nine points and six rebounds.
Even Johnson was a question mark until just before game time. He has been dealing with back problems that made him a spectator for the second half of the game against Detroit just before the Christmas break.
“I think everyone has to be a piece of it,” Triano said. “Jose (Calderon) and Jerryd Bayless have to score from the point guard spot. (Leandro) Barbosa and (Linas) Kleiza have to score from the wings. (DeMar) DeRozan has to be a main player as far as points go. It’s going to be focussed on the wing players mostly, but we’re going to have to find a way to manufacture points somehow.”
That’s three losses in a row and counting as the Raptors’ road trip continues Tuesday in Dallas against the 24-5 Mavericks.
The 25 Toronto turnovers that led to 28 Memphis points were one more than the previous season high the Raptors set right before the Christmas break in a loss to Detroit when at least they could claim to be moved by the Christmas spirit.
But without Andrea Bargnani (strained left calf muscle) and relying on a three-person big man rotation of Amir Johnson (still dealing with a sore back and a non-factor offensively Monday) little-used Joey Dorsey, and rookie Ed Davis, the Raptors were up against it before the ball was even tipped.
For about 18 minutes of the game, it appeared the Grizzlies, who were coming off a big road win in Indianapolis the night before, might play down to their injury-plagued competition.
Then the turnover barrage began and the Grizzlies caught fire and began pulling away.
“We couldn’t find enough points, I don’t think,” Raptors head coach Jay Triano said, explaining all the combinations he tried. “In doing that we play guys a little out of position and end up turning the ball over and asking other guys to handle it a little bit too much. This is a team that forces a lot of turnovers but there were a lot of unforced ones that were on us.”
Still, Triano wasn’t willing to sweep all the giveaways under the rug.
“You can’t have guys who have been in the league for a year or two jump up in the air and make passes and try to make plays,” Triano said. “This is a very athletic team we played. As soon as you commit to jumping in the air to make a pass, they will respond and make deflections and turn it into fast-break points. We just have to be more careful with the basketball.”
Missing Andrea Bargnani (calf) and Sonny Weems (back), and with Amir Johnson’s back still not close to being 100 per cent, the Raptors managed to hang in for just over a half before the inevitable happened.
“It’s a little stiff, it’s a little frustrating,” Johnson, who lasted just 29 scoreless minutes to add to Toronto’s woes, said of his back. “I can’t do some of the things I want to but it’s getting better. I had some kind of tape on it to keep it kind of balance but it just got sore throughout the game.”
Reduced to basically an eight-man rotation — including Johnson — Toronto committed too many turnovers, didn’t have nearly enough offence and all the different looks Triano gave the Grizzlies weren’t enough.
Without Bargnani and his team-leading 21.2 points per game, Triano’s biggest task was to find enough offence to overcome that absence.
And it’s not as if the Raptors have found some consistent, bona fide second scoring threat this season.
“If you look at our stats, you’re taking 20 points out of our lineup and it makes it pretty difficult to recover those when the next leading scorer is Leandro Barbosa coming off the bench at 12 (per game),” said Triano. “There’s a bunch of guys right around 12 points so obviously we’re going to have to have two or three guys step up and play above their season averages.”
Joey Dorsey finished with 10 points and 13 rebounds for the Raptors, who lost their third straight and fifth in the last six.
Dorsey said he had a feeling Randolph would awaken in the second half. In fact, the veteran warned Dorsey of that.
“The first half we had him scoreless, and he told me: ‘You know I’m coming at you every time I get the ball,“’ Dorsey said of the halftime chat between the two. “So, the second half he came at us. He did work.”
Dorsey was in the starting lineup because the Raptors were without their leading scorer (Andrea Bargnani, 21.2 points), their leading rebounder (Reggie Evans, 12.1) and starter Sonny Weems. Add Peja Stojakovic to the wounded, and Toronto pieced together a squad with no player taller than 6-foot-10 forward Ed Davis, except for seldom-used, 7-1 rookie Solomon Alabi.
The makeshift lineup helped contribute to a season-high 25 Toronto turnovers.
“The offence is just out of sync when you are missing your main guy and everything went through him before,” Kleiza said of Bargnani, who was nursing a strained left calf. “You’re trying to figure out how to play without him, and maybe that’s why we had so many turnovers.”
The Raptors also only got to the line 14 times, and getting there was just as productive as not getting there at all. Out of the 14 free-throw attempts, only 5 were hit. Joey Dorsey was the main element of that stat, as he went 0-of-5 from the line.
Ironically, Dorsey was one of Toronto’s bright spots tonight. In his 2nd start of the season, Dorsey grabbed 10 points, 13 rebounds, and 3 assists.
The point guard play for the Raptors was also nothing more than average. Jose Calderon – coming off his worst performance of the season against Detroit, had 13 points and 9 assists; while Jerryd Bayless only played 16 minutes off the bench, finishing the night with 7 points and 1 assist.
The last time the Griz had played at home, they lost to the hapless New Jersey Nets. It was the latest in a string of defeats to weaker opponents.
Since then, the Griz have overwhelmed Indiana and dispatched of Toronto to form a two-game winning streak. Beating teams they are favored against is one way the Griz hope to find the consistency they’ve been talking about all season.
“We needed this win,” Allen said. “We knew that (Toronto) was short-handed. But we’ve got to do it consistently. We’ve got to keep the mindset that we’re a team.”
If anything, Allen symbolized how well-rounded the Griz can be. Memphis got meaningful contributions from everyone who played significant minutes for a second straight night.
Zach Randolph’s strong play in the post led to 21 points, eight rebounds and clutch baskets in the fourth quarter that kept the Raptors at arm’s length. Rudy Gay added 18 points, six assists and tied his career high with five steals.
O.J. Mayo and Mike Conley each tossed in 12 points.
“It’s the little things that make us a winning team,” Conley said. “We have to take charges, get loose balls and dive on the floor.”