Quick Reaction: Grizzlies 109, Raptors 99

11 mins read
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Photo Source: Raptors.com
MEM Grizzlies 109 Final
Box Score
99 TOR Raptors

C-
K. Birch26 MIN, 10 PTS, 6 REB, 4 AST, 1 STL, 4-11 FG, 0-1 3FG, 2-3 FT, 1 BLK, 2 TO, -15 +/-

Not his best game. He seems to rush his triples. It’s okay for big men to have slow releases — they’re usually wide open, which is always the case for Birch when he launches. He can take his time. He did create for Toronto with the dribble, which is not something he ever had a chance to show with Orlando. The next time he tried to create off the dribble, he jumped straight into help, giving up a strip six to Jaren Jackson Jr., so some ups and downs. That he was trying off the dribble shows how few guys Toronto had who could create for Birch. He also struggled against Valanciunas’ incredible mix of size and post skill.

A-
M. Flynn25 MIN, 15 PTS, 7 REB, 3 AST, 1 STL, 6-11 FG, 3-6 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 1 TO, -11 +/-

He was quiet to start, which hurt the Raptors. With Flynn Toronto’s only point guard, they needed him to take control of the ball and penetrate the defense. Instead he mostly gave the ball up and stood in the corners. The one time he did attack, he created an easy floater for Birch, which he converted. He was more aggressive in the second half, pulling in transition and splashing a triple, throwing a nice pick-and-roll lob to Birch, and canning a fancy baseline turnaround after Nashing under the rim. He even dominated the ball to end the game with Siakam out, and though it didn’t result in a win of course, there was some nice process stuff. Played solid defense throughout the night too, as has become tradition.

A
Y. Watanabe24 MIN, 11 PTS, 4 REB, 0 AST, 1 STL, 4-8 FG, 3-5 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 0 TO, -14 +/-

His defense on Kyle Anderson was fantastic, and he even out-hustled him for a rebound that the latter quit on. He was great against Ja Morant, too. In his stint in the second quarter, his defensive footwork remained elte as he stuck with the ball and recovered out to the corner. Added some hot shooting from behind the arc, including a clutch three to keep Toronto close with a few minutes left. His finishing and passing were impressive, too.

D+
P. Siakam30 MIN, 18 PTS, 3 REB, 4 AST, 0 STL, 8-21 FG, 0-4 3FG, 2-4 FT, 0 BLK, 2 TO, -12 +/-

He settled early for jumpers off the dribble, but when he fought to the rim, that’s when Toronto’s offense created its best shot. His first step was blistering once or twice, as he faced up in the post and seemed to teleport to the rim. Would have been nice to see him turn to it more often, but it’s clear he’s working on other parts of his game. He eventually left the game with a shoulder strain.

D
G. Trent36 MIN, 18 PTS, 6 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, 5-20 FG, 2-8 3FG, 6-8 FT, 0 BLK, 1 TO, -18 +/-

His finishing around the rim still needs work. He was blocked on his first two attempts from the field, both at the rim. Then he dribbled into a pullup, which he drilled, parlaying it into a fancy scoop finish. He doesn’t have elite length or vertical, so trickery may well be his future as a finisher. His shot was off on this one, which happens, but he didn’t make up for it with any other part of the game. His passes went wayward, too.

A+
J. Harris29 MIN, 16 PTS, 6 REB, 4 AST, 1 STL, 5-12 FG, 2-6 3FG, 4-4 FT, 0 BLK, 1 TO, 2 +/-

Entered the game early and immediately splashed a triple. He’s been instant offense immediately upon entering the game, and this was no different. Even more impressive, he picked up Ja Morant full court, and though he fouled him on the first possession, he clearly changed the texture of Toronto’s defense. Beyond the shooting, he dished a nice pocket pass in the pick and roll to Freddie Gillespie and had a nifty reverse in transition. Is it crazy to say that Harris should be ahead of Bembry and Johnson in the rotation? Raps won his minutes.

A+
F. Gillespie21 MIN, 6 PTS, 8 REB, 0 AST, 0 STL, 2-4 FG, 0-0 3FG, 2-2 FT, 1 BLK, 1 TO, 5 +/-

Changed Toronto’s defense off the bench. He moved his feet and even drew a charge on Jaren Jackson Jr. attacking from the perimeter. Contested everything around the rim, which contributed hugely to Toronto’s 15-5 run to close the first quarter. At one point he even met Ja Morant above the rim. He was aggressive on the offensive end, too, making himself available for passes and cleaning up the slop. His footwork was quicker and cleaner than it has been in some games, which is a very nice bit of progression that allows him to convert more and easier shots.

D
D. Bembry19 MIN, 2 PTS, 5 REB, 2 AST, 3 STL, 1-3 FG, 0-0 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 3 TO, 3 +/-

He faded into the background in a bad way. Allowed a blow-by to Ja Morant that resulted in an uncontested dunk, although it was just as much the team’s fault for offering him no help baseline. Lots of turnovers.

Inc
R. Hood13 MIN, 3 PTS, 1 REB, 0 AST, 1 STL, 1-2 FG, 0-0 3FG, 1-1 FT, 0 BLK, 0 TO, 7 +/-

He fractured a bone in his left hand as he was reaching in to try to strip the ball from Valanciunas. That’s very poor injury luck, and here’s to hoping he heals fully and quickly.

D
S. Johnson12 MIN, 0 PTS, 0 REB, 0 AST, 1 STL, 0-2 FG, 0-2 3FG, 0-2 FT, 0 BLK, 0 TO, 3 +/-

He played?

B
Nick Nurse

A mix. I liked seeing Freddie Gillespie and Jalen Harris play such important roles, and they’re coming along quite nicely. They should have real roles next year, if not consistently, certainly in spots. And they’re improving across the board. Yet Pascal Siakam’s growth is the most important part of a game like this, and he very clearly spent more time working on his midrange jumper than any other part of his game. On one hand, I understand it — it’s something that needs work to become consistent. On the other hand, it feels like there are other elements of SIakam’s game that should be more important pieces of his offensive bag — like three-point shooting finishing — that need just as much work. I didn’t love Siakam’s emphasis in this one. Still, I’m probably making a mountain out of molehill, particularly with Siakam having such a strong month or so of games, and so many other Raptors having quietly nice showings against Memphis.

Things We Saw

  1. The Raptors settled for a lot of jumpers to start. Siakam took a number of long twos after turning down triples on his first few possessions. Without Fred VanVleet or Kyle Lowry in the lineup, the Raptors don’t have nearly enough paint touches to grease the wheels of the offense. The first good jumper they attempted was after Birch euro-stepped through the paint and kicked to Watanabe for an open corner triple.
  2. It’s clear that Gary Trent needs to shift his game slightly to fit perfectly into this team. Toronto only allows midrange shots to a very specific few players — the Big Four — and though Trent may be a major part of the team’s future, he isn’t yet of the status of those guys. He may be allowed to take a few middies, but certainly not the amount that he currently takes. Give that he’s a below-average finisher and streaky shooter, it’s clear that he needs to offer some consistent offensive skillset that he can bring no matter if his shot is falling or not. Norman Powell went through a similar developing process.
  3. I feel like Naismith Cup games should be more fun than that one. That was a yawn. For all their exciting pieces, the Grizzlies are really a Grit n Grind sequel, and the Raptors have other emphases than playing winning basketball.
  4. That Malachi Flynn and Freddie Gillespie had good games makes this worthwhile, to be honest. Positive steps from important pieces for the future. That’s enough of a takeaway.

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