After being blown out of the building by Houston, the Raptors (3-12) are in Memphis tonight to take on the Grizz (10-2). The Grizzlies are Scarlett Johansson-hot to start the season, sitting alone on top of the Western Conference and currently ranked first in both the Stein and Hollinger Power Rankings. While on paper, this game appears to be a mismatch, we could have said the same thing about the Spurs on the weekend, and the glass-half-full way of looking at a team that continues to lose close games (besides last night’s blow-out in Houston) is that they’re at least in all of them, so it’s certainly worth tuning in, even if it’s just to watch Jonas handle his toughest test in the post yet, or the inevitable Jose/Bayless bench PG grudge match. Of course, the glass-half empty way to look at this game is that we’re on the second half of a back to back, on the road, and on a five game losing streak, and if you were going to list every team in order of their chances to break the Raps’ recent woes, the Grizzlies would be WAYYYYYY down the list.

The key word for the Grizzlies’ climb to the top of the West: balance. They’re currently ranked 4th in the league in both O and D rating, and four of their five starters are currently averaging 14.8 points per game or above (with the fifth being lockdown defender Tony Allen). Looking at their roster composition, it’s a bit surprising that they’ve managed to climb to the top of the heap in the league – they have the same starters as last year and a pretty similar bench, minus O.J. Mayo and plus Jerryd Bayless – so maybe it’s more of a case of the other West contenders falling back to the pack (the Harden trade, the Lakers’ early struggles, etc). In any case, they’re a nightmare matchup for Toronto with perhaps the best big-man combo in the league in Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, as well as a strong wing scorer in Rudy Gay. You thought Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond had their way inside against the Raps? You ain’t seen nothing yet.

Bottom line here is that the Raptors will need all of their key guys to contribute in big ways, on short rest, to have a chance to compete tonight. It’s a lot to ask, but the last two “guaranteed losses” we marked down were against the Pacers after that triple OT game with the Jazz (win) and the Spurs (double OT loss), so the Raptors have been making a habit of putting out their best performances when we least expect it. We’ll see.

Keys to the game for the Raptors tonight:

  • The starters have to keep it close. I don’t care if it’s by Lowry taking advantage of the one marked positional advantage the Raptors may have in the starting lineup (he should be well rested seeing as he basically took last night’s game off), Bargnani going nuts from outside a lá the Pistons game, or Dominic McGuire hitting Zach Randolph in the kneecaps with a baseball bat. The Raptors’ advantages against the Grizzlies start and end with their bench depth, and if the starters can keep the game reasonably close against Memphis’ top unit, then the Raps’ bench may be able to outscore the Grizzlies’ bench enough to pull the game out. The tried-and-tested Jose/Amir combo will be key to this effort, of course, as will the surging Ed Davis, who I’d imagine will get an increased workload tonight against Memphis’ tough rebounding front line.
  • McGuire/someone has to stop Rudy Gay from going nuts. Alright, Dominic, you want to be a defensive stopper? Let’s see it. This matchup scares me in that I could easily see Memphis having a 20+ point advantage at the starting small forward position if Gay has even a slightly-above-average game, and I just don’t know how the team will find enough point advantages at other positions to mitigate that. Dominic, now’s your time to shine. Terrence Ross looms as a major X-factor here as well – he’s really started to show something and he’ll need to be a difference maker off the bench to make up for the scoring deficiency we have with McGuire starting. I’d be very, very happy if he got the start tonight, but my hopes aren’t high.
  • DeMar has to get to the hoop. Sounds simple, until you remember that he’s being guarded by Trick-or-Treat Tony Allen, one of the top perimeter defenders in the league and a guy who’s had DeMar’s number the last few times out (DeRozan’s scoring average against Memphis in two games last year: a paltry 11 points). DeMar should have the speed advantage in this matchup, and he’ll have to produce to keep the Raps in the game tonight, which means not settling for jump shots and not getting frustrated if he’s stopped his first few times to the basket. A steady stream of DeMar to the hoop also means a chance for Memphis’ bigs to get in foul trouble (Zach Randolph in particular, who is a poor help defender), which can only mean good things for the Raptors.
  • Jonas has to be able to play Zach Randolph to a standstill. I’m assuming Casey will give Andrea the matchup on the more perimeter-oriented Marc Gasol, which means it’ll be up to Jonas to bang in the post against Z-Bo. Asking Jonas to keep an all-star forward like Randolph under wraps is a huge assignment for a rookie centre, and demonstrates both the Raptors’ matchup difficulties against Memphis and the impressive job Jonas has done thus far this season. I’m really looking forward to seeing his offensive repertoire continue to develop, and a steady stream of high screens, jump hooks, and mid-to-close-range jump shots will help to even out this matchup, as Randolph isn’t exactly known to be a top-notch post defender. Jonas’ speed and athleticism will have to carry him through here, but it’s a ton to ask. A solid showing here would be a great individual confidence boost, and yet another positive sign for Raptors fans.

I’m not including Andrea in the keys to the game for a very specific reason – the team proved on Sunday against the Spurs that they can compete with any team in the league, even when he’s off. That said, a good all-round performance here would be huge for his confidence and will certainly help the team be competitive, as well as swing the yo-yo that is the fanbase currently calling for Andrea’s head one game after his best performance of the season (after one of his worst of his career, to be fair). We don’t need a Pistons-esque scoring run to beat the Grizzlies, but a nice efficient box score, like the one he had last night against Houston, would be a huge boost.

Betting line isn’t out tonight as Conley is still not confirmed to play (flu-like symptoms, but assume he’s in). I’d love to go against the grain and say the Raps are going to keep this close, but after that Houston game, my hope is waning. This has all the makings of another blowout. Grizzlies by 14.

  • Gregast

    The Raps playing the Grizz takes me back to my high school practice where on Thursday before the Friday night league game, the junior varsity would scrimmage with the senior varsity for 30 minutes.  At 15 and being 6’3″ I got to cover the seniors center who kicked my ass around for most of the 30.

    One Thursday I got aggressive and started taking some rebounds away from the big man on campus. He became progressively more and more PISSED until finally he went up with me and used his right elbow to dislodge a tooth from my mouth.

    He got all of the rest of the rebounds that Thursday.

    PS – We won the junior title that year

    • Nilanka15

      Moral of the story:  Your high school team might have a better shot at taking down the Grizzlies than the Raptors…

      • Daniel

        I needed this burst of laugh among the doom and gloom…

      • Statement

        HAHAHAHA!

  • Daniel

    The writers and the posters on this blog are officially insane. They keep repeating the same things from the off-season without incorporating the reality of the first fifth of the season. What “positional advantage” we have with Lowry? We are beyond the corelation factor of a 1-8 record with him, we are in causation territory. Demar doesn’t have any advantage over any other player in NBA: an SG who doesn’t shoot, dribble, pass or defend has a ceiling in YMCA gyms and not in NBA. Jonas and Ross are terrible defenders, at least at this stage of their career. They will probably get better however right now people should stop blaming Casey or the other players for their awful defense.
    There is no real analysis of our issues, only invectives and biases. Nothing that is happening now had not been expected by people who understand basketball. Streetball doesn’t work in the NBA. We can see all the hallmarks of the streetball in our team: bad defense, ball-hogging, one-on-one basketball, 1 or 2 passes before a shot. Houston, though young, played a beautiful brand of basketball, having at least 3 passes for the majority of their possessions.
    People were so busy hating on players that they forgot to see the forest. Our forest is in the hands of Colangelo, where the real blame lies. He’s completely unable to build a roster with complimentary skillsets. Even the biggest Jose and Andrea’s haters admit that in other systems both would strive because they have certain skillsets that are useful to a basketball team. We will not get better by just getting rid of them, we will be worse. Why can’t such a system be built here? Why did we change the path that we started last season? Who wanted the new players: Colangelo or Casey? If it’s Casey, he has to go too because the players don’t fit the system.
    I’m an idiot too for still being interested in this team and posting in this blog. I love basketball and I always hope that people will start understanding it instead of just watching it.
     

    • BCBargnaniCaseyGots2Go!!!

      How much worse can the Raps (3-12) be without than with AB & Jose the 2 longest tenured Raptors under BC as well as they both exemplify what’s wrong with this team- weak ass defense mixed with a dash of inconsistent offense.

      It’s past due time to show both AB & Jose the door via trade and move in another direction basketball wise than to stagnate in this BC sponsored AB/Jose funk-o-rama…..

      BC, Gheradini, Stefanski (& rest of front office), Casey, AB, Jose all gots2go and let’s start with new minds, voices, vision, structure for Raptors basketball and get rid of this spoon fed BC memo’d used car sales man approach of pissing on the fan base and calling it rainwater, shitting on the fan base and calling it Kobe steak.

      • BCBargnaniCaseyGots2Go!!!

        Oh yeah, Grizz 120 Raps 103…………

    • sitnonDfence

      in what world are Jonas and Ross terrible defenders? They make mistakes, who doesnt.

      • Copywryter

        Jonas has looked great…for a rookie. Mistakes or not, he is not a good defender right now. He has the desire/motor but needs strength and seasoning. Terrible? No.

        I was at least aware of Ross defensively last night (on Harden especially) but like every rook he gets burned on screens and rotations. Not enough data to say ‘terrible’ here.

    • BrainColangelo

      Does Streetball mean ISO-heavy offense?  Like, say… OKC last year?  A team that didn’t have a PG.

      The problem is the talent, not the style.

      • Daniel

        The streetballers have talent however they can’t play organized basketball. The difference in style is essential and this is not the time and place to compare and contrast them. Oklahoma has probably a thin playbook and their talent will take them only so far. They beat the Spurs last play-offs only when they started using certain plays in a certain system. If you play heavy ISO’s with teams like the Spurs they will destroy you regardless of individual talent. No NBA or college team plays streetball.
        My coach used to bring streetballers from time to time in our practices. One of the conditions was to have at least 50% of our possessions ending with a lay-up and we always demolished the streetballers until such time we couldn’t find any of them accepting to play with us. He actually forbade us to play pickup ball unless it was among us or other basketball players and we ran plays.

        • EmarErozan

          If nit, why do you kee talking about street ball?

    • NyAlesund

       +1
      I couldn’t agree more.

  • NyAlesund

    “I’m not including Andrea in the keys to the game for a very specific
    reason – the team proved on Sunday against the Spurs that they can
    compete with any team in the league, even when he’s off.”

    Really?

    I suggest you to send someone to convince Andrea to stay out of the rest of the season.

    I am sure this team can compete with any team……………..sure……….like last year……..

    C’mon……………

    • Nilanka15

      It may not be specific to Bargnani.  With or without Lowry, this team usually keeps games close.  We can say the same about Lowry, Fields, Anderson, Jonas, etc.

      It’s really a statement about the roster.  No single player is so important that we have a lessened chance of winning without him.  We’re a poorly constructed team from top to bottom.

      • WHAT THE

        Trust me MITTENS it’s Barney

        • Nilanka15

           Sinting, what about your boy Forbes?

        • Copywryter

          It’s not Barney. One bad dinosaur does not an extinction make.

    • NEW ERA

      This year’s team is much different than last year’s if you haven’t noticed.

      We’re 3-12. What do we have to lose by letting ED play and getting JV more offensive touches? Pretty sure this team can overcome 18ppg (less IF AB is effective in limited minutes) on 49% true shooting.

      • Daniel

        No, it can’t and not because Andrea is a great player. It’s all about the spacing. A lineup of Lowry, Ross, Derozan, Ed and JV would get blown out in the first Q. It would have problems beating a D-League team.

        • WHAT THE

          so we better not get rid of AB13 cause we wil get blown away and we wouldn’t even beat a D-LEAGUE team, I guess high coller was right when he drafted AB13 it’s all about the spacing,really we should try and draft some more players like AB13

          • Lickmyballsufuckwit

             thast exactly what this team needs….high iq ballers…andrea is one of them…..whereas emar?….dude loves driving into triple teams and forcing shit up while his teamates are wide open or just straight up turning over the rock or just straight up chucking us out of games…..dudes a dummy….much like a very vocal minority of our fans.

        • Copywryter

          Yup. DD would become the focal point of the offence and would draw double teams that he isn’t gifted at passing out of. We’d see severe sag from opposing bigs given the lack of perimeter shooting and the middle would clog. It was not pretty last year and this lineup might actually be worse.

          • Daniel

            All good points however I disagree DD would attract double-teams, at least in the area where he’s catching the ball: the opposing bigs would just wait for his spin move in the lane or his pump fake fade away jumper on the low block and disrupt his shot. The opposing defenses would just play box-and-1 and invite our chuckers to chuck away from the perimeter, 7 seconds or less….

            • truth be told

              What if you were able to move Andrea for a more consistent and better player that contributes in the scoring column but maybe also in other ares (rebounding, steals, assists, defensive awareness)?

              Based on your observations it might make the offence better and allow even more room to operate, not to mention potential team defence benefits.

              • WHAT THE

                +10000000000000

            • Lickmyballsufuckwit

               thx daniel for schooling the streetballer element we have in here…..can raptor republic hire you?

      • NyAlesund

        Yes this team is different. I am seeing a bad roster trying to play together. I am seeing a team not able to move the ball decently. I am seeing the suppost new leader gambling, makes bad decisions, defending really bad in crunch time (remember Bobcats and not only)  and so on. I am seeing the team gave many shots attempt to Bargnani when struggling and not gave him a single shot when he is on fire. I am seeing Ed davis playing well and stay glued on the bench. I am seeing Casey doing a really bad job. I am seeing awful defensive rotations and I am seeing a team not really trust to each other.
        Worst I am not seeing Casey punishing every miskates from Bargs, form DeRozan, from Lowry…………………..

  • Jason

    The Raptors are an example of how basketball should not be played like. They lack hustle, grit, determination, defensive tenacity, and most of all a will to try to win. Aside from all of this, the management, the owner, and all related executives are incompetent and are only involved for profit, profit, and some more profit. We have one basketball team in all of Canada and we lost the other one we had. The city of Toronto have supported this team every single year regardless of their failure. The TV rating, the attendance, and the overall support have always been up there with the other big market teams. But, the biggest difference is that those team always seems to be relevant one year or the next. Every single year its the same for us, we just keep on loosing, and we try to develop the young guys and try to get better through the draft. However, once we do get a good player (e.g Vince Carter, Chris Bosh, Damon Stoudamire, and Trac McGrady) not only we fail to retain them but once we do trade them or they leave on their own, we get nothing of value in return. I mean c’mon, how do the upper head can just sit there and create a team that is always way below average. Get some cojones and make a decent team for once and spend some money to acquire them. However, I know its no a easy process to do so because there are limiting factors such as location, players not wanting to play north, and so forth, but in the end you are paid to make sh*t happen. Raptors management is one of the most pathetic groups out there. It is unfair to hate on the coach since he is at most the product of the talent he has. Its also unfair to blame solely on the players themselves because they are at most all C to D level type of players (with exception of Lowry, Jose (if you put in a team like the Lakers for example, he would excel), and at times DeRozan) and the record is the result of the talent we have on the floor.  I will still be rooting for the Raptors but man do I fell we have one of the pathetic team since its inauguration. 

    • Lickmyballsufuckwit

       …the raps lack talent.

  • KaioKev

    I just hope the Wizards win a couple before we play them. I don’t think I’d be able to stomach loosing to a team with no wins before we play them.

    • Lorenzo

       Oh, like last year?

      • Copywryter

        I forgot about that! 

  • BlakeMurphy

    Bargs out with an ankle, Davis starting, McGuire benched, Kleiza starting, per multiple Twitter sources.

    • Lorenzo

       This is excellent news.

    • Konanas

      Davis gets his chance, hope he won’t miss it

    • voy

      wonder if a trade is in the works.  if so, no old guys coming back to us, please.

      • Jamshid

        This is exactly what I was thinking. There might be a trade in the works and this is why AB was given a night off. If true, hats off to BC for making the trade happen.

        • Lorenzo

           lol, yeah right…

        • Lickmyballsufuckwit

           ima say a prayer tonight that bargs is traded….i want that poor guy out of this shithole fanbase.

  • KJ-B

    So that’s why Kevin McHale traded this dude from Houston–total head case… Hmmm, I did compare KLowry to Mike James–apologies to Mike James…Mike James was better!

    • KJ-B

      Dude plays for stats, doesn’t play 2 win! Funny thing is as the starting PG, if he plays to win he’ll get more stats–expect him to be traded again if he can’t tone down his “getting mine” tendencies…Absolutely killed the raps starting the 3rd Q–more Jose please!

      • WHAT THE

        more dribbles? are you tryng to kill me? 7 years is enough please and thank you

    • KJ-B

      Dude is waaay to caught up in getting his–killed the raps at the start of the 3rd Q…the ball wasn’t popping on O…playing for stats not win!