Coming into Toronto, the Grizzlies have been hit with some more injury news. Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical reported Tuesday afternoon, that starting point guard Mike Conley is out indefinitely suffering a transverse process fracture in the vertebrae. This coming after last year when the Grizzlies scraped into the 7th seed in the playoffs, losing the last 16 of their 21 games with a very big bandage on their team and using a total of 28 players on their roster, the most players used on a roster in a single season in NBA history.
This season the Grizzlies have already had their fair share of injuries. Free agent signee Chandler Parsons missed the first six games of the regular season recovering from knee surgery from a season ago and is again out with another injury sustaining a bone bruise in his knee. They might also be without former Raptor Vince Carter, who injured his hip in the fourth quarter of Monday’s game and remains questionable, and Zach Randolph is out indefinitely dealing with a personal matter. Injuries are part of the game, and good teams can usually strive through them, but this is a string of bad luck for the Grizzlies, who have gone two seasons missing a majority of their team.
Even while missing key pieces to their roster for a large part of this season, the Grizzlies have a 11-7 record in the young season. Their schedule, according to ESPN’s strength of schedule rankings, is the second easiest in the NBA thus far. Although they have had some impressive games, including a win against the Los Angeles Clippers on the road, they have matched those impressive wins with some very ugly loses including one to the Minnesota Timberwolves by 36 points early in November.
The 2016-2017 Grizzlies have looked very different from their past ground and pound style of play from years prior. New head coach hire David Fizdale was a long time assistant with the Miami Heat, who is familiar with playing a faster/more perimeter oriented style of play. Sometimes coaches have to adapt their coaching style to their roster but instead, Fizdale’s players adopted his style of coaching. This season the Grizzlies are attempting 25.3 three pointers a game, shooting them at 33.2%. This puts them middle in the pack, at 16th in attempts, and 23rd in percentage. In comparison, the Grizz in the 2014-2015 season, ranked 29th in three point attempts per game at 15.2, shooting them at almost the exact same percentage. Even though there is more three point shooting on this years team, the Grizzlies haven’t exactly completely transformed their style of play. They still play very slow, ranking 28th in the league in pace, beating teams on the defensive end, never really blowing teams out of the building with a scoring barrage.
One player to look out for is Grizzlies star player Marc Gasol, who has really changed his game this season. The two time All-Star Gasol attempted a total of 66 threes in the first 8 seasons, shooting those 66 attempts at 18%. So far this season, Gasol has stretched his offensive arsenal past the three point line, shooting 60 already in 17 games (3.5 a game), at a staggering 41%. Gasol has always been a dominant scorer in the post, which would usually bode well against the Raptors, matching up against Jonas Valanciunas, but guarding out on the perimeter has been a tough task for Valanciunas in the past. Valanciunas’ job at guarding Gasol will be indicative ofhow much he plays tonight. It will be interesting to see who Casey might throw at Gasol ,who will be one of the only scoring options for the Grizzlies.
Although Jonas Valanciunas landed on Pascal Siakam’s foot and sprained his ankle, he is expected to play during Wednesday’s game. The Raptors in their previous outing, had their first blowout win of the season, beating the Philadelphia 76ers 122-95. This was exactly the game they needed, coming off an incredibly tough west coast road trip. This game also gave Coach Casey the option to rest some of his starters (specifically Lowry and DeRozan) and playing some of the 905 players we haven’t seen yet on the big stage this year.
The Raptors have had a good record against the Grizzlies the past few season. The last time Memphis won in Toronto was February 20th 2013, a night where the Raptors leading scorer was Alan Anderson with 19.. oh how times have changed. Even though the Raptors have come out on the better end against the Grizzlies as of recently, the games still remain to be very competitive. The slow pace, both teams fighting in their half court sets, playing really tough defense, usually works out to a tough low scoring game. With all the injuries to the Grizzlies roster right now, and with the Raptors well rested it’s hard to see them coming out on the losing end of this one.
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