The Raptors were minus Jose Calderon, Leandro Barbosa, Linas Kleiza, Joey Dorsey and Reggie Evans, while Sonny Weems gutted out nine minutes, which made for some interesting floor combinations for the second game in a row.
Impressively, though, the Raptors hung around all evening, tying the game with 18.1 seconds remaining on a Jerryd Bayless driving layup.
Bayless was outstanding with 15 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds. Andrea Bargnani led the Raptors with 29 points.
Rudy Gay’s turnaround jumper with 0.8 seconds left hit nothing but mesh, allowing the Grizzlies to pull out the win.
Though disappointed, the Raptors were proud of their effort in trying circumstances.
“We’re obviously in an emergency situation — we were in (it) the whole game,” Bargnani said.
Pointing to the many empty lockers in the dressing room, he continued: “It’s like there’s been a war in here … but that’s the way it is, you have to try to stay positive.”
Bargnani also lamented the end of the three-point streak.
“It’s not the main focus, but it was nice to have it,” he said.
Two debilitating constants all year — an inability to take care of the ball and league-worst shooting from outside resurfaced.
Toronto had twice as many turnovers as the Grizzlies in the first half and missed all 13 threes on the night while Memphis nailed four.
As the Raptors — forced to play five former D-Leaguers against the Grizz — stumble through these dark days, progress, at least is apparent in the forms of young DeMar DeRozan and Davis.
DeRozan’s play has taken off this month. He has posted an impressive 19.5 points per game on 47.5% shooting in a dozen 2011 contests and is fifth in scoring among all sophomores.
DeRozan stormed out of the gate with 10 first quarter points and finished with 25.
Davis stepped up with five blocks and has also turned it on in January, looking aggressive and proficient on the glass, intimidating in the lane, and efficient inside.
The little-used Ajinca was peddled to Toronto along with the 2012 second round pick Toronto previously gave Dallas in exchange for the rights to 2010 50th overall selection Solomon Alabi. In this transaction, Dallas received the draft rights to big man Giorgos Printezis.
Dallas is paying the remainder of Ajinca’s salary and has also brought aboard ex-Raptor Peja Stojakovic.
A native of Saint Etienne, France, Ajinca has appeared in 47 regular season games (six starts) with Charlotte and Dallas averaging 2.3 points, 1.1 rebounds and 6.1 minutes.
He was the 20th selection of the 2008 draft by the Charlotte Bobcats and averaged 13.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.1 blocks and 24.9 minutes in 33 D-League games last season.
Ajinca is expected to join the team for Wednesday’s game against Philadelphia.
Gaines has played in five games with Toronto averaging 5.8 points, 2.0 assists and 14.6 minutes, but was not a lock to sign a second 10-day deal until Calderon was ruled out.
Johnson, a 6-foot-5 combo guard,is averaging 25.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists for the Bakersfield Jam.
Andrea Bargnani, 29 points, and DeMar DeRozan, 25 points, both went over 20 for the second straight game. Every other Toronto starter was in double figures.
The Grizzlies also got balanced scoring; Gay led the way with 21 points while Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol each had 17.
And so ends the streak
The Raptors were 0-13 as a team from three-point range, bringing the longest streak of games with a three-pointer by a team in NBA history to an end. It had been 986 games — dating back to Feb. 26, 1999 — since the Raptors went a game without a three, yet nothing they could do Monday could prolong it.
Andrea Bargnani missed four, Sundiata Gaines missed four, Jerryd Bayless missed three and DeMar DeRozan missed two from beyond the arc.
The streak had come close to ending before: there had been 25 games in which they’d made only one. The closest they had come to having it snapped prior to Monday was Nov. 29, 2006, when Darrick Martin hit a three-pointer with just half a second left in a game in Dallas.
Hours before tipoff, they informed point-guard-for-hire Sundiata Gaines that he’d be a Raptor for at least one more game (he’d been hired on a 10-day contract to relieve the hobbled Jose Calderon and Jerryd Bayless combination).
A sudden flu had made Calderon unable to stand this time, not the sprained ankle or sore foot that have been bothering him recently.
Meantime, the starting lineup morphed throughout the day as medical assessments rolled in. The final version featured two reserves, including Bayless and Wright, who logged his fourth start of the season and contributed 11 points, and tied a team-high nine rebounds in an astronomical (for him) 41 minutes.
“Crazy,” Wright muttered before the game, shaking his head.
Despite trailing for most of three quarters, the Raptors surged from a 12-point disadvantage in the fourth quarter to lead 92-91 with 3:58 remaining. Memphis regained the lead and had a two-point edge until Bayless drove hard to the hoop and tied the score with 18.1 seconds to go. Then, after an inbounds pass, Rudy Gay nailed a fading jumper in the game’s dying seconds. Game over.
Bayless finished with a career-high 11 assists, along with 15 points and eight rebounds.
Andrea Bargnani led the Raptors with a game-high 29 points on 48-per-cent shooting from the floor. Wright played for 41 minutes. This season, he’s averaged 15.3. Toronto hasn’t dropped eight straight since a 10-game slide March 26 to April 12, 2006.
“This is the circus,” forward Julian Wright, one of the few healthy-enough-to-play Raptors, offered. “The injury-bug circus.”
Things got even weirder. The Raptors competed all night, eventually put to sleep by a tie-breaking jumper from Rudy Gay with 0.8 seconds remaining. Gaines’ desperation heave at the buzzer was blocked.
“We challenged it well, and we had our best defender, we think, on him,” Triano said of Gay’s shot. “We knew exactly what they were going to do.
“If you can get a guy to shoot a fade-away jumper late in the game, you want that.”
The Raptors were within a bucket at the half and tied the game with 18 seconds remaining. They just could not reliably find offence late in the game. The cobbled-together lineup also resulted in the end of the Raptors’ NBA-record streak of 986 consecutive games with at least one-three pointer made. It was 12 years old. Rest in peace.
How silly did things get? Wright played 41 minutes. When the Raptors are healthy, he can go fortnights without playing that much.
Andrea Bargnani had a game-high 29 points, and was pretty much a sure thing in the fourth quarter. DeMar DeRozan added 25 points, while Jerryd Bayless finished just two rebounds shy of a triple-double.
DeRozan gave Toronto its first lead of the fourth quarter by making a pair of free throws with 3:58 left, putting Toronto ahead 92-91.
Conley put Memphis back on top with 2:10 left. After making one free throw but missing the second, he wound up with the loose ball and drove in for a layup to make it 96-94.
After a pair of free throws by DeRozan and a running jumper from Conley, Bayless tied it at 98 on a driving layup with 18 seconds left.
Memphis then got the ball to Gay, who let the shot clock wind down before driving for the winning basket.
"I just wanted to make sure there were no seconds left on the clock," Gay said, "make sure nobody could square up and actually be ready to shoot the basketball at the other end."
Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said he knew he wanted the ball in Gay’s hands.
"With so much time on the clock, I knew I was going to give it to him to go get us a shot," Hollins said.
Toronto inbounded the ball to Sundiata Gaines, but Gay blocked his shot as the buzzer sounded.
"We’re finishing like a playoff team," Conley said. "We’re making the right passes, making the right plays and getting the big stops when we need them."
This trade suggests that right now the Raptors aren’t looking for major returns on veteran investment; they simply want cap flexibility, youth and draft picks – period. They aren’t looking to take on any money and they aren’t interested in a stop-gap roster that keeps them competitive while they bring along the youngsters. This is an organization focused squarely on the future, and that may mean that Leandro Barbosa and Reggie Evanscould be the next ones to go.
At this point you’d have to wonder what the point in keeping either one would be. While Barbosa has offered everything the team could have expected as a sixth-man scorer this season, acquiring him was really more about shedding Hedo Turkoglu (and his four remaining years) than it was about getting Barbosa’s skills to Toronto. Plus, with Bayless now on board, the Raptors have a younger version of Barbosa that they need to groom, and they’ll need to free up Barbosa’s minutes and touches to do so. While Barbosa is an eminently likeable guy, it isn’t like he’s helping the team along in their development. He’s a scorer on a team full of offensive-minded players, and his abilities in the team’s weak areas (defence and rebounding) are not exactly noteworthy. Considering how many playoff-bound teams could use his scoring off of the bench, and considering that prospects and picks are all the Raptors are in the market for, expect to see Barbosa moved before the Feb. 24 trade deadline.