The news broke that Kawhi Leonard would not be joining the Raptors for tipoff early in the day. It also happened to be quite cold outside – or so I hear. The jokes came and went, “anything to keep Leonard out of the snow and cold”. Karmic retribution struck in the favour of the Raptors, though, as Marc Gasol sat out last night’s contest as well. Coupled with the fact that the Grizzlies were on a back-to-back and in fairly poor form prior to that – 1-9 in their last ten games – the Raptors seemed ready to take advantage of the Grizzlies misfortune.
The first half was defined by three players: CJ Miles, Pascal Siakam and Serge Ibaka. On top of that, Kyle Lowry played his typical scrappy, heady brand of basketball. The major story is that since Danny Green showed up in a pair of ‘CJ’s PJ’s’ Miles is 5-9 from downtown (after the first half, he was 0-4 from the field in the second). Miles put up 13 points in the first half, which wasn’t even a team high. While the announcers and crowd were showing Miles a great deal of love (as they should), potential All-Star, Ibaka was eating the Grizzlies inside the paint. 7-9 from the field for 14 points, and showing well on defense.
With Lowry content to play his more laid back style in this one, Siakam took on a good deal of shot-creation responsibility in the first half. This turned out to be a pretty great plan as the Grizzlies were turning the ball over a lot. 12 first half turnovers fuelled a Siakam-led transition attack as the Raptors scored nearly 40-percent of their points on the fast-break in the first half. The bench pulled their weight as well with Norman Powell attacking often on defense. Great play across the board resulted in no Raptors putting up a negative plus-minus in the first half.
Oh yeah, and Miles had 5 first half steals. Go figure. The Raptors took a 7-point lead into the second half, where things got a bit crazy.
In the third quarter, Danny Green decided to treat Raptors fans to a truly special experience. Hoping to give us a taste of what it’s like to cheer for Steph Curry or Klay Thompson, Green knocked down a gobsmacking 7 triples in the quarter. What started out as a back-to-back-to-back flurry, stretched itself out over the rest of the quarter as the Raptors opened up a massive 37-point lead over the Grizzlies. The team was 10-16 from downtown in the quarter (Green was 7-9) and won the frame 45-14 on the back of Green’s 21 points.
“It was kind of like a first for me, it was kind of weird, them trying to run plays for me and get the ball in my hands. I’m like, ‘Yo, just play basketball’. But it was fun, and the fans made it even better.” – Danny Green on his third quarter explosion
In all that madness, Siakam and Lowry found themselves at +40 and +38, respectively. For those of you keeping track at home, that’s a decent number. Almost as shocking as the absurd shot-making, the Raptors had 12 assists and 0(!) turnovers in the quarter, a ratio Jose Calderon would be very proud of.
The 4th quarter was pretty mundane, although, Patrick McCaw registered his first bucket as a Raptor. Chris Boucher played his first double-dip – 2 games, one day – in the NBA, and in life! As it turns out, Boucher didn’t play high school basketball, so he never had to play multiple games in a day. Another fun fact, Boucher had more airballs last night than makes. Hope springs eternal, the guy didn’t even play high-school basketball! Most readers have been playing basketball longer than this guy, maybe his ceiling stretches as far as his extremely long arms?
All in all, the Raptors closed this game up 119-90 as they handed the Grizzlies their 5th straight loss. A 2 day break awaits the Raptors before they host the very fun Kings and the NBA’s Super-Villain waiting in the wings: De’Aaron Fox – he’s going to steal Curry’s heart in 2 years. A well needed rest for the Raptors as the league catches up to their number of games played. Things are good for the moment.
Have a blessed day.