Gameday: The Return of the Boss, Grizzlies @ Raptors, Feb. 20

Both teams have played very well since the Rudy Gay trade. Which will sustain it?

Think tonight’s game means a little something extra to Rudy Gay? How could it not? Just three weeks ago, the Grizzlies decided they were better off without him and shipped him to Toronto, receiving Ed Davis and Tayshaun Prince in the deal.

Since then, both teams have been hot, Memphis at 5-2 and the Raptors at 6-2, and the teams come in with four and five-game winning streaks, respectively.

While Rudy Gay has been the don mega for the Raptors and is the new “closer” in town, Boss Davis has hardly played for the Grizz, while Prince has been the complementary piece you would expect. Before we get into the breakdown, let’s have a look at how the trade has worked out for both sides.
raps grizz before after
The Grizzlies are scoring a bit more and their defense has slipped, but overall they’ve been at the same level of effectiveness. This isn’t really surprising in a seven-game sample, though I was a little surprised at the defensive result.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have been, though, as the Raptors’ defense has improved significantly with Gay. Once again the small-sample and strength-of-schedule caveats apply, but Gay has had a neutral impact on the team offensively but a huge impact defensively.

Let’s take a closer look at how Gay has played since coming to Toronto. I’ve also shown Kylw Lowry and DeMar DeRozan here, as well, since they are two players who were expected to be impacted by this trade a fair amount.
raps grizz player compOther than the game-winning shots, Gay isn’t playing any better offensively. He has, however, been a nice defensive addition, checking the best opposing wing and allowing the Raptors to play smaller when it suits them.

Gay has also had a strong positive impact on DeRozan, it seems. To the eye, DeRozan has appeared to have more space to operate, drawing the lesser of the opponent’s wing defenders and playing with greater confidence. For Lowry, the starting role hasn’t been very kind to him, but his defense has been noticeably better. This is perhaps due to the mental side, with Lowry now less concerned with scoring and/or dialed in with his BFF in tow and the starting gig his.

We can’t definitively say, “hey, Gay has made the Raptors better,” but it sure looks that way so far.

As for our pal Ed Davis, he’s struggled to get run under Lionel Hollins. He may just need to build up his new coach’s confidence in him, as he played 22 minutes last night, nearly half of what he had played in the previous seven games. He had 14-and-4 with four blocks, and hopefully that showing gets him into Hollins’ plans more significantly.

Tale of the Tape
O-Rating: Toronto 106.6 (11th), Memphis 104.5 (17th)
D-Rating: Memphis 100.4 (2nd), Toronto 107.8 (24th)
Pace: Toronto 89.9 (25th), Memphis 89.2 (28th)
Strength: Memphis O-Reb (1st), Toronto Ball Control (2nd)
Weakness: Toronto Fouling (30th), Memphis Opponent Fast Break (24th)

Let’s be honest. The Raptors are going to be in tough in this one, even with the hot streak and new additions. Lowry could and perhaps should outplay Conley, while the Raptors also have a serious advantage in wing scoring. The issue comes in the post, where Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph are more or less unguardable on the best of days. Forget that the duo averages 29-19-5 combined, and instead consider that they’ll be banging against Amir Johnson (somewhat foul-prone), Jonas Valanciunas (inexperienced), Aaron Gray (big but not overly talented) and Andrea Bargnani (not engaged). Gasol and Randolph, backed up by Darrell Arthur and Davis, should really be able to go to work on the Raptors down low, an advantage that could be tough to overcome.

The Picks
Vegas: Raptors -1
Hollinger: Pick-‘em
Blake: Grizzlies by 5.

I’m a bit surprised at the line, but I guess the power ratings back it up. Both teams travelled, but the Raptors are at home. Both teams are hot, but Memphis is winning less decisively. Both teams have a significant advantage in one area (Toronto at the wing, Memphis in the post). You can make a case for it being a toss-up.

Unfortunately, I’m going to back the Grizz. For one, I thought the Raptors were lucky Washington no-showed last night, and I was wholly unimpressed with the team’s effort except for a few players. In addition, Rudy Gay wanting to stick it to his old team could go one of two ways – a classic “F You Game,” or a situation where he over-shoots trying to have that kind of game. If Rudy can corral the energy for a semi-efficient 25 points or so, and Lowry can outplay Bayless, the Raptors have a chance. Otherwise, I don’t see them being able to make up the ground Memphis will gain with their bigs.

The game goes at 7 p.m. on Sportsnet.

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