The Raptors have been playing well, even if they’re coming off of a bleh loss. The Grizzlies, meanwhile, are riding a three-game losing streak to some mediocre teams in the Indiana Pacers, Houston Rockets, and New Orleans Pelicans.
One of Memphis’ troubles is that their much-vaunted defense has started dissolving around the edges. They have the seventh-ranked defense in the league, but that has been 27th over the losing streak. (Toronto hasn’t fared much better over the last three, with the 22nd-ranked defense.)
Much like the Raptors, the Grizzlies have a dearth of power forwards on the roster. That has been exacerbated with Brandon Clarke out, although whether power forward is even his natural position is a question that will need solving over the coming years. But Memphis has supersized wings in Kyle Anderson and Desmond Bane — both of whom are terrific defenders, too — who can capably man the position. Yet they started a center in Gorgui Dieng last game. If Pascal Siakam faces Dieng or Valanciuns as his primary defender for a large portion of the game, I would expect a huge scoring night. Against Anderson or even Xavier Tillman, I would be a little less confident.
Memphis’ bench has been much stronger than their starters for a number of games. If Melton, Jones, Bane, and others run the score up against Toronto, it will be very difficult for the Raptors to compete. The Raptors have already established that as long as Aron Baynes is their starting center, they are not going to win starter versus starter minutes all too often. The best they can hope to do is break even. And Toronto gets its winning done through its transitional units. The thing is, Memphis gets its winning done, as well, with two starters on the floor. Toronto currently has a net rating of +6.4 with two starters on the floor, which they use more frequently than any other team in the league. Memphis is even better in those situations, with a net rating of +10.0.
Toronto will need to find an edge somewhere else, if their starters can’t dominate, and nor can they win with two starters.
Fred VanVleet hasn’t scored well since his 54-point night. he could thrive against Memphis’ solid, if not spectacular, guard defenders. If Siakam struggles against Anderson, VanVleet could lead Toronto in points tonight.
Otherwise, enjoy yourself tonight. The Grizzlies are an exceptionally fun team, with almost no holes in the rotation, led by one of the most exciting players in the league in Ja Morant. Jonas Valanciunas will once again be on your television set. Xavier Tillman and Desmond Bane were two players Raptors twitter thirsted for in the draft, and for good reason: both have been exceptional so far this season. They would have looked even better in Toronto’s rotation, perhaps, as the Raptors have holes in the positions both play. Plenty of reasons to watch tonight.
Tipoff: 8:00pm EST | TV: TSN | Radio: TSN 1050
OG Anunoby (left calf strain) and Patrick McCaw (knee) are out. Jalen Harris and Malachi Flynn are on assignment with the 905.
PG: Kyle Lowry
SG: Fred VanVleet, DeAndre’ Bembry, Matt Thomas
SF: Norman Powell, Terence Davis, Paul Watson
PF: Pascal Siakam, Stanley Johnson, Yuta Watanabe
C: Aron Baynes, Chris Boucher
Brandon Clarke (calf) is day-to-day, while Jaren Jackson Jr. (knee), Justise Winslow (hip), and Jontay Porter (knee) are out indefinitely.
PG: Ja Morant, Tyus Jones
SG: Dillon Brooks, Grayson Allen, John Konchar
SF: Kyle Anderson, De’Anthony Melton
PF: Gorgui Dieng, Desmond Bane
C: Xavier Tillman, Jonas Valanciunas
Raptors are -3.5, and the over-under is 224.5