This one hurts. Mentally, you were prepared for a loss given the quality of the Grizzlies and things were on course with the visitors maintaining a 9 to 11 point edge for a huge chunk of the game. The Raptors jabbed away, often cutting the lead to 8, sometimes 6, only for Memphis to hit back. Alan Anderson’s 14-straight points helped erase the deficit in its entirety and at that point you felt the stage was set for the struggling Rudy Gay to take center stage, or the Raptors to simply pull through. Neither happened, and if Gay’s horrendous performance was the coffin that sealed the Raptors fate, poor execution down the stretch were the nails.

[Reaction: Reaction: Grizzlies 88, Raptors 82]

Gay’s comment on DeRozan being the best two-guard he’s played inspired Tony Allen to show up with a vengeance and he was on DeRozan like a jersey. The response from DeRozan smelled of panic when it should’ve been of patience. The loose handles don’t help when you’re being pressured and when the response is to convert a high-dribble into an unplanned drive, the percentages of things working out dive. He was taken out of the game by Allen early, which brought Gay into an even sharper focus. DeRozan eventually figured that going to the FT line was his best option for the night and he got some points there. However, in the fourth he was nowhere to be found and was probably still scarred from Allen’s defense. Here’s Allen after the game:

“I heard him, all it did was fire me up,” Allen said. “I was telling my teammates before the game that I was ready to compete. Yeah I heard him, it didn’t do anything but make me prepare even more. I watched like 15 minutes of film on him [DeRozan]. The guy I didn’t study was Alan Anderson.”

Rudy Gay’s play was the worst I’ve seen from a Raptor in many a day. Let’s break it down. First, there was the completely selfish play where he’s not even looking to pass and his only aim is to score for himself. Second, there was a casualness on offense that didn’t serve the occasion, and this time around there wasn’t a game-winner to deflect the conversation elsewhere. Third, the man-defense on the wings was desultory to the point of being neglectful. This was a game where you come out to make a statement by playing team-ball, with the aim of proving that the mud being slung your way about being a selfish player is unwarranted. Instead, Gay reinforced all those beliefs and you can almost hear the Memphis locker-room shaking their heads and being thankful for having Prince instead of Gay. Not good if you’re the Raptors. He started off 0-5, and ended up going 5-15 with only 2 FTs and had 5 turnovers, including two late in the fourth when the game was extremely tight.

The Grizzlies shot 30% in the first and the Raptors were at 20%. These figures didn’t really improve too much throughout the game with both teams coming in at 36%. For the Raptors, it was an aggressive Memphis perimeter defense combined with their superior paint presence doing the trick. Also, the fact that our offense now consists entirely of one-on-one isolation plays is not good. No, not good at all. The Raptors didn’t do themselves any favor by picking up some cheap, entirely unnecessary fouls, with Johnson and Valanciunas both having three in the first half. The defense, which has been much-maligned this season, was what kept the Raptors in it. They might’ve conceded a big edge on the offensive glass due to Memphis’ sheer size and agility, but you can’t ever say Memphis ever found it easy to score. Instead of applying pressure to the Memphis guards, the Raptors forced contested shots and were assisted by an overzealous Bayless (3-9 FG) whose play was almost keeping the Raptors in it. You have to give the team a lot of credit for their defense performance. The Grizzlies may not have a ton of high profile wings, but their big men can be domineering and the Raptors held the combination of Randolph and Gasol to 6-29 FG. There’s a lot to be said for that and credit goes to Johnson, Valanciunas, Gray and even the man-defense of Bargnani (had a great block on Randolph as well).

The Raptors were unable to find a single stretch in the first three quarters where the offense flowed at any consistent rate. This was true to a degree against Washington as well, but the Wizards are a far more forgiving opponent than Memphis (second-best defensive team after Indiana), and whereas in Washington the Raptors managed to hold on to a relatively comfortable lead despite poor play, it wasn’t the case here. The 9 to 11 point lead the Grizzlies maintained wasn’t threatened by anything and it looked like they were going to sail home with it. After Johnson and Valanciunas got in foul-trouble, Bargnani was inserted to provide an offensive spark and he failed miserably. I hate his four-foot drive from the three-point line to just inside the three-point line, which is either followed by a miss or a pass that is close to being picked off. His defense wasn’t completely awful and he did get a few stops against Randolph, but at the end of the day he’s got to be an efficient scorer to have any sort of value and he went 0-4. Enough said.

Down nine entering the fourth, Casey deployed a four-guard lineup with Bargnani in the middle. It coincided with Alan Anderson going off for 14-straight points which made this a game and soon enough the Raptors were tied. When Gay got in the game, Anderson took a backseat and didn’t hoist a shot and that’s a 50-50 decision because we’ve seen him get hot only to go ice cold. It’s Gay’s selfish offensive attitude, poor playmaking, and general ignorance of the type of game this was hurt and ultimately cost the Raptors. Throw in two late turnovers where he’s dribbling into trouble and all Memphis needed to do is rebound and score on every third possession to win. The four-guard lineup with Bargnani might have a high plus-minus due to Anderson’s heroics, but make no mistake, we gave up 10 offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter and the Grizzlies scored 14 points off of it.

The question you have to ask is why Valanciunas wasn’t put in to alleviate the damage. He didn’t even enter the game in the fourth despite having a good showing earlier. It’s no secret that Memphis is strong on the glass and Casey failed to counter, instead sticking with a smaller lineup that paid the price. We’ve seen this over and over again, maybe it was showcasing Bargnani, or maybe it was a continuation of what he’s been doing all season. While Casey went small, Memphis had no trouble matching up with the versatility of Zach Randolph on full display as he guarded Rudy Gay very effectively, all the while talking some serious smack. Casey saw this and didn’t react, maybe he decided to have faith in Gay and stuck to his guns, thinking that this was exactly the matchup he wanted. If Gay would’ve gone off, it would’ve been great coaching, but the fact that he didn’t makes you second-guess the coach.

In the end, it’s a small miracle we were in this game given the quality of the opponent, the performances of DeRozan and Gay, and the plague of foul trouble. Steve raised a point on a recent podcast that now that the Raptor’s season has a different focus, there’s a magnifying glass on Casey’s in-game decision making, play calling, and general X’s and O’s. The days of measuring his performance by the effort exuded by his team alone are over, and that a deeper, more discerning view must be taken. Given this shift, the first area to inspect is that of the offensive sets we run, specifically the amount of isolation plays that are being called and the lack of inside-outside play. Memphis might be the best example in the league of playing inside-out and the Raptors may not have to go to that extreme. However, there isn’t a big on the roster that can add that dimension to the offense and we have to rely on guards, usually DeRozan, to provide any post-up presence. Ed Davis was maturing into that player, and Valanciunas is a couple years away so if we’re hunting at the trade deadline, that’s an area of need. The other aspect of our offense that needs improving is big-passing, as our big men can’t seem to pick out a pass when catching it in the high-post, elbow, or even at the three. It’s a hard skill to find in a big man these days so it’s not exactly a high priority.

If you’re tracking the playoff race you’ll be happy to know that Milwaukee lost keeping the difference at five games.

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  • Dbobb28

    If there is any positive to take away from tonight, it is that the Brooklyn Nets came back to beat the Milwaukee Bucks for the second night in a row. So we are 5 back of the Bucks for the final playoff spot. Poor performance by our big three of DeRozan, Gay and Lowry tonight. Poor coaching job by Casey. We need an assistant coach with an offensive mind because our offensive sets are awful. There is no purpose, no movement and too much dribbling. Our inbound plays are the worse in the league. I get nervous everytime Casey calls a timeout late in the game and we have to inbound the ball at halfcourt.
       Definitely the most selfish overall game team wise. The last time I witnessed horrible selfish play by one player, was when Alan Anderson took 8 shots in overtime against Philadelphia. Rudy Gay was a one man ball hog turnover machine.

  • Matrix

    I don’t know if its just Lowry’s game , the picks being set up or whatever, but this team just cannot seem to complete any offensive play. Everything this team does post Calderon trade seems to be iso on the perimeter and shoot, with very little ball movement. Now I don’t want to start up a Lowry vs Calderon debate here, but when Jose ran down the court you always knew he had a sense of purpose when the pick was set up. There was always a “flow” to the game. With Lowry the offense is just stagnant and we’re left with either Rudy or Demar on the perimeter with the ball and eventually teams are going to kept up on that. Unlike Jose, Kyle  is not utilizing the picks more and is  happy just staying put on the perimeter, waiting for either Gay or Derozan to come off screens which also seems to suck.

    The defense is stellar but we’re going to have to do better than a lousy wing player isolation plays, which aren’t really iso if the team isn’t clearing the floor properly.

  • Mrmyeah

    I’m so sick of Casey and his incredibly lackluster offensive sets, as pointed out by other commenters. He’s a great defensive coach but he really needs to go.
    I too, hold my breath when he draws up an inbounds play. This year his inbound plays usually result in a five second call, a turnover or a highly contested shot. I seriously think I’ve seen the Raps convert maybe 3/30 when the games get tight in the fourth. He’s become WAY too predictable and the other coaches know what’s coming.
    Additionally, his sub patterns are becoming farcical. Where as other teams in the league have a core group of starters and an intermingling of bench players for their second units, there is no method to Casey’s madness. He over thinks everything and tries to put out a group of 5 that he thinks is a genius in game tactical move. Hence no one is able to gel and become a cohesive unit. I’ve been a gambler for years and Vegas usually hits their spreads on the head or damn near close. Do you know why the variances against the spread are so messed up this year with the Raps? Cause Vegas, nor anyone, can guess who the hell will be out there playing at any given moment. Tonight’s spread was TOR -1. As was the case v Boston. We were 9 point dogs against the Clippers and won that game outright. Vegas doesn’t get things THAT wrong SO consistently. It’s absolutely unheard of the way Casey throws out his group of guys. And he thinks he’s an offensive Patton. Unreal.
    I maintained after Gay’s first couple of games that it would only be downhill for him from that point. Because as talented as he is, Casey’s sh!tty offensive sets did in Gay’s offense as he learned them. His peak during his tenure here was when he was blissfully unaware of Casey’s sets and playing straight ball. I personally put 90% of our close game losses directly on Casey. He’s just too much. Keep it simple man. And I wholeheartedly agree in regard to not showcasing AB. Enough of him already. He just sucks any energy we have off the floor. The amount of rebounds I saw go through his space tonight…
    At the end of the day, Casey’s gotta go. I’ve just had enough of him.

    • Phat AlberG

      I agree I thought Casey blew this game, but what pissed me off was the missed foul shot.  I don’t get it how he has Ross & Kyle at other end of court in stead in the Raptor defensive zone with no rebounders on the floor.  But I have to say Rudy & Demar played terrible today, bad decision making and poor shot selection was the key to this lost.  It just sucks because if we got this one today we would of be 4 back from 8th spot instead of 5… ughhh 

      • Lino Dinardo

        when you have Lowry at the point with no creativity. running no plays. what do you expect

  • Mopola

    On a bright side, Milwaukee, Philly, Boston and Atlanta lost too so they didn’t increased the lead against the Raptors 🙂

  • 2damkule

    well now.  so, yeah, hats off to memphis.  they bring it., every last one of ’em.  they sized up the raps pretty quickly, saw the ‘bambi eyes’ when they were confronted with pressure,  and just kept at it.  basketball is HARD when the other team makes you work for everything, huh?  perhaps some of that intensity will rub off on them, and they’ll get an understanding of what it takes to compete on that level.  if the playoffs (and beyond?) are the goal, then this is what the games will be like if they were ever to make it there.  if they aren’t interested in competing at that level (i.e. working hard on both ends), then they should probably unzip their balls now, pack e’m up, and just be content ‘battling’ for the 9th spot.


    This game was like a mini version of the entire season. Terrible start, late push, a ray of hope that you know deep down is irrational, and then the final fall-apart.

  • Ds

    No regrets. With that defensive effort, the Raps walk away winners on any other night. In the 4th, Casey went small to keep Anderson on the floor with Gay and DeRozan, which caused all those offensive rebounds. The puzzling part was that he kept Bargnani in as the sole big. I mean, come on, that’s coaching 101. Put Big V in (if Amir is not an option). Heck, I would have brought in Acy even.

  • Andre

    I think you need to credit the grizzles with this one. Their defense was amazing, I know everyone was saying that rudy messed up in the end, but EVERY time in the last 5min of the game that Anderson got the ball, he was double teamed aggresively, and he had to get rid of the ball. The half court offense is not great, I agree the iso dont work, but who are you suppose to do the pick and roll with? the raptors play very good defense as well. 

    • unknown guest

      In short a really, really good Western Conference team, beat an Eastern Conference team that is struggling to contend for a play-off spot.

  • Milesboyer

    In the last 9 games the Raptors have played 5 of the top 7 teams in the league.  They’ve beaten 3 of them (2 on the road no less) and 2 of them they’ve lost to but competed against until the fourth quarter in Miami’s case and up until the last few minutes with Memphis.  Throw in a couple of wins against lesser quality opponents and you have a very impressive nine game stretch.  Dissecting how they’ve lost or won, the “shoulda, coulda, wouldas” and the “Jose would have run the offense so much better” is a good way to pass the time but the fact is, this team is competing and/or  winning against some of the best teams in the league.

  • Nilanka15

    Rudy was downright awful tonight, as was DeRozan, and we still managed to keep it close vs. one of the better teams in the West.  Minor victory I suppose…

  • Nilanka15

    The terrible shot selection continues to haunt this team, and no single player is immune to it.  Even Anderson, for all he did last night, took terrible (and I mean terrible) shots that just happened to go in.  No flow, early in the clock, well-defended shots that on most nights, would have very little chance to go in.  I’m really frustrated with Casey’s inability to invoke some discipline in this department.

  • vino

    One loss against a superior team and suddenly the wheels come off?! There will always be negative fans, who want Casey gone or BC gone or both gone with all the cheerleaders… c’mon. This team was in this game despite an awful night from its top guns. We fight and compete – isn’t this what we’ve all wished for just two months ago?? As for the sudden change in the focus (playoff hunt) and therefore the magnifying glass on the coaching stuff – its all bs! This team may be in this hunt short term; however it will go as far as Jonas will take it long term… and everybody in the office understands that. Coaching stuff needs to be examined based on the development of #17 and #31. On this note, the comment about Ross seeing less playing time in favor of AA holds true, especially considering his last performance (unfortunately it was AA who went off red hot and not Ross). Just for the record, I’m against playing AA unless there is an injury. For me – he’s an insurance, nothing else.

    Regarding the lack of inside game on our roster – that’s what I’ve been saying all along. Its our biggest need! Too bad Gasol senior went down; he would have been one of the most suitable pieces to chase before 3pm today…

    • DumbassKicker

      People need to lay of the “play Ross, sit AA” daily rants. Some rookies, who will turn out to be very good NBA players, take more time to get up to speed. The play we’re seeing from Ross so far, it would be a disservice to the rest of the team on the floor, who are trying to win, to have him out there for any more minutes than he’s already getting.

      I believe he has the skills, and Casey believes he has the mindset, to become very good, but now is not his time. Some shout often about letting him play through his mistakes, blah, blah, blah. As I said, not all rookies develop the same way. They aren’t robots that can be programmed. The OKC model is often shouted about. If they’re to be used as an example, then note that with 30 games to go (when rookies usually start seeing more minutes) Ross’s average MPG is not far off of what Ibaka’s average MPG was his rookie year. Ibaka didn’t suffer did he?

      PS. Also note that JV’s rookie year average MPG is very close to Harden’s rookie year MPG. Did he suffer?

      • vino

         Here is my rant, just for you – nothing to do with Ross being a rook in my comment. I didn’t go into details about playing through mistakes… maybe other did in other daily rants; never the less, to our discussion – I suggested to play Ross over AA because I actually think Ross is better than AA today. Minus the rookie wall, of course. The notion that AA is a good defender is a myth. He’s got good positioning/instincts, but he’s too slow to guard SG and too small to guard SF. As for his AA offense, some one here once said he’s a chucker; I’d buy that. Last night he was hot taking bad shots. I’d rather sit his ass down!

        • my_azz

          In no real world is Ross better than AA right now. I hope, and believe, he will be much better, but far from it at this point. If you don’t think AA is a good versatile defender (not great, but good), then you don’t know what your looking at.

          • vino

            a bit childish to claim that: “if you don’t think X… , then you are Y” – just a general statement. very subjective to say the least…

  • Stukeyx2

    As a Menphis fan, welcome to the world of Rudy Gay. He will do this and I don’t know if Toronto has realized no matter how many points he is scoring, he’s doing it on 38% shooting. THAT SUCKS. After Anderson’s 4 point play he did not touch the ball while Rudy turned it over three times. So as a Memphis fan, tha k you for winning us another game last night Rudy. Stay naive Toronto

    • 2damkule

      thanks for the ‘insight.’  

      as with any fanbase (yes, even in menphis), there are portions that prefer to not know these things.  there are those who were against the trade not because rudy isn’t a good player, but for the reasons you mention (oh, and the fact he’s overpaid by about 8-10M$/yr).  

      rudy’s a GREAT player if he’s making $9M/yr, and is the 3rd (maaaaaybe 2nd) option, and is happy in that role.

      unfortunately, our team is run by a GM who’s more interested in prolonging his own career/rep than he is building a longterm winner.  so for him, getting gay is a steal, because, hell, he’s a star.

      lastly…you might want to peruse the comments of other posts before making a determination as to our collective naivety.  but thanks for coming out.

      • GrizzFan

        Grizzlies season ticket holder here…

        I’ll concur about Rudy. He was one of my favorite players when he got here, but what you see is what you get – 18 ppg (maybe more in Toronto since he’s arguably the #1 option there), 5 rpg, 2 assists, and a horrendous shooting percentage. His season stat line has almost been identical since his rookie season. So, you hit the nail on the head – that’s great at 9 mil a year, but not at his bloated salary that we gave him in a panic.

        That said, it’s hard to argue y’all’s record since he got there – 6-3, I believe, counting last night? When he’s good, he’s great, but there are too many nights when he all but disappears. For a guy who makes only $200,000 less than Durant, that’s kinda unacceptable.

        But, he’s going to give you those nights (and with two game winners, I’m guessing he already has) that are amazing, and hopefully those are worth it. 

        Good game last night – when QPon fouled Lowry on that three in the last seconds, I nearly lost it.

  • jacobdrichards4

    I’m gonna say this on behalf of all Raptors fans.. Shut the fuck up Leo. Its hard to deal with him praising the other team the whole game, I know its annoying when an announcing crew is too big of a homer but its like hes cheering for the other team and waiting for the Raptors to make a mistake

    • Roarque

      Leo can pontificate. He often has a favourite topic for the game and goes on ad nauseum. 

      The only saving move would be if Matt and Leo started admitting on air that they really truly can’t stand each other – a fist fight would help authenticate the vitriol.

      Everybody and You should be removed from Leo’s vocabulary

      References to one’s family activities should be removed from Matt’s between play patter because they tend to run over into the next ball possession and his son’s hockey/soccer practice takes precedence over why Bargnani gave the ball away instead of shooting.

  • Mr. Grizzle

    Another Memphis fan here – this is really well thought-out commentary. Rudy was a very solid citizen in Memphis – off the court, he did a lot of nice things in our community, so I have a bit of a soft spot for him. And Rudy never complained publicly about his role on our team. 

    That said, he is what he is on the basketball court. He does one thing great: the two-dribble pull up from 18 ft in. Don’t expect anything else and you won’t be disappointed. He’s just a low IQ player that gets by on his superior athleticism. We thought he had turned a corner in Memphis in November because he was doing things we hadn’t seen: make plays for other guys, not lose his man on D, actually get to the FT line, and be able to take more than two dribbles without losing the ball – heck he was even bringing the ball up on occasion. But by December he had regressed to his old ways (most Grizzlies fans trace this regression back to the game ZBO went for 30 and 20 – Rudy needed the ball alot more after that).

    Rudy just never fit our “grit-and-grind” style. Maybe he’ll fit in better in Toronto. Good luck.

  • Theo

    Toronto has shifted to a kind of random wing-oriented offense. Plus there seems to be some sort of an on-courted blinders-on  cliche that involves Lowry, Gay, DD and AA.  I don’t see the same kind of effective use of any of the bigs ….I have a lot of sAB, AJ, JV or even of  TS and Fields. We’ll see if this new in-season Lowry-centric change in approach works.