Gameday: Grizzlies @ Raptors, November 30

The Raptors look to cease their 4-game losing streak against the Ja-less Grizzlies.

10 mins read
Photo via Raptors Twitter

Commence the “what the Hell is the NBA doing to its players!!!??” yabbering.

We’re already without Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, Zion Williamson, Jonathan Isaac, and Jamal Murray. Young talent like T.J. Warren, James Wiseman, Markelle Fultz, and Onyeka Okongwu, among many others, have also yet to commence their seasons.

Now, for some length of time, no:

  • Collin Sexton (donezo)
  • Michael Porter Jr. (donezo)
  • P.J. Dozier (donezo)
  • Joe Harris (4-8 weeks)
  • De’Andre Hunter (8 weeks)
  • Kelly Olynyk (6 weeks)
  • Cole Anthony (several weeks)
  • Jalen Suggs (broke his thumb last night)

According to True Hoop, 79 NBA players are already listed with injury concerns prior to Monday night.

That’s 25% of the NBA with 25% of the season fini.

Now’s not the time to litigate the NBA’s insatiable greed as a profiteering behemoth. I’m just saying the injury rate, in general, is concerning. Particularly when, in theory, a private enterprise should be doing whatever it can to preserve its content creators and the content creators should be doing everything they can to preserve their livelihoods.

Whatever. This is all just a long-winded prelude to introduce my complaining about the Toronto Raptors’ injury woes. For six NBA months straight, now, the Raptors have been missing someone important.

(You can see that Toronto’s in the top third of missed games this year. This doesn’t tell the whole story; teams can squabble over the value of missed player games – Kendrick Nunn’s 22 missed games is less consequential than Klay’s, for example…duh.)

I spent so much of last year thinking: it’s fine, once we’re healthy, we’ll be fine. Then we never got healthy and when we did, it was too late for fine.

This season’s pattern is eerily similar. Mounting injuries are slowly sinking Toronto further and further below .500; my hopes this season also drown as the basin between Playoff and Play-In teams floods.

It’s early, I know. There’s plenty of time to turn this all around – though, Toronto has the 7th most difficult schedule remaining. More importantly, in the bigger picture, it’s making evaluating this team extremely difficult.

On the Rap Up, I argued with The Arsenalist and Kyle Brickman about our need for a traditional centre. I refuse acquiring one until this roster experiment runs its course. And that can’t happen until the core is entirely intact.

We’ve yet to have it with one or several of Pascal, Yuta, Precious, Khem, OG,  Scottie, and, now, Gary missing time.

Louis talked about Precious’ defence two days ago, highlighting how difficult Toronto’s defensive scheme is for a young player still trying to figure it all out. That’s true for most of the Raptors logging minutes thus far. Everyone, vets included, are figuring out how to play with one another in a complicated system and that takes time. Time the Raptors have yet to be afforded.

We gotta wait and see.

So, before you all start sending me Kristaps Porzingis trades…


The Skinny

Back to the injury thing.

We lost Ja Morant on Friday.

Goddamn, those non-contacts are terrifying.

Reports are saying Ja got out alive with a knee sprain and should be back in a few weeks.

Still. He was playing like an All-Star. The MIP sittin’ on a silver platter. Memphis was still figuring its stuff out but looked to be on the rise. All was well in Tennessee. Now it isn’t and I feel their pain.

So far, they’re 1-0 without Ja. They whooped Sacramento 128-101. Which means nothing. If the NBA ran a relegation system, the Kings would be in Sioux Falls tonight or somewhere else very irrelevant.

Ja is/was everything to this Memphis team. He leads them in virtually every offensive and advanced statistical category – except, nauseatingly, in usage, which Dillon Brooks, no surprise, holds title to.

Where and how Memphis derives their playmaking with Ja sidelined remains to be seen. Tyus Jones is next in assists with 3 per game, but he’s an impotent scorer. Then it’s Steven Adams…Dillon’s their next best scorer, but he’s out there getting his own.

Toronto without OG won in Memphis last week with Ja. TSN turning point: Raptors suffocated Ja in the 2nd half. He finished with 9 points and 3 assists (opposed to 14 and 6 in the 1st half); that, along with a Precious 17-point 3q and a Gary 17-point 4q, was ball game.

Guys like Dillon (5/12), Desmond Bane (2/6), and Kyle Anderson (2/5) were forced to do the bulk of the shooting. It didn’t turn out so hot.

Which leaves Jaren Jackson Jr. He’s their best player (?) with Ja gone. Or, he’s supposed to be after his brand-spanking-new contract. I’m not one to judge a player’s role on a team based on the size of his contract though…

Either way, it’s not been a good 2021/22 for him, offensively, at least (on defence he shares a defensive RAPTOR with Kyle Lowry(!), Precious Achuiwa(!), and Draymond Green): he’s averaging 15 pts/6 rebounds/1 assist with a 48% effective field goal percentage. Against Toronto, he ate up the Raptors’ backline with 13 points in the 1st half. He disappeared in the second with only 2 FG attempts finding foul trouble along the way.

Game Plan

Simple: no penetration and strong rebounding – Memphis feasts in the paint and is 3rd in OREBS. Keep Bane from getting open 3s; dare everyone else to give it a launch. Don’t let Steven Adams manmeat his way around the rim like Enes FreedomTruthLibertyFoxNewsGuest Kanter did on Sunday. Make things physical for JJJ and attack his foul-prone ass at the other end.

On offence, it comes down to this abhorrent bench. The Raps have the highest scoring starters but the worst bench in the league in terms of points and assists.

I say: throw caution to the wind! Give me Bench Mob 2022.

Hand the Stage Coach over to Scottie, Pascal’s riding shotgun – I want to see those two conspire more diabolically than Loblaws and the rest of the bread mafia – with stallion Banton, stallion Boucher, and stallion Yuta running ahead.

Those 4 with FVV or Svi are +8.8 per 100 possessions in 13 possessions. Not a lot to go off, that’s fine. No better time to experiment than with a weak bench and a headless opponent stumbling about.

Oh. Don’t forget, what Yuta did to Dillon Brooks last time.

I doubt Dillon has…

Game Info

Tip-Off: 7:30pm EST | TV: Sportsnet; BSSE  | Radio: Sportsnet 590

Raptors Lineup

OG Anunoby (hip pointer) and Khem Birch (knee) are out. Gary Trent Jr. (calf) is questionable. Goran Dragić has returned to Slovenia for personal reasons.

PG: Fred VanVleet, Dalano Banton, Malachi Flynn

SG: Svi Mykhailiuk

SF: Scottie Barnes, Yuta Watanabe, Justin Champagnie

PF: Pascal Siakam, Chris BENCHEDer

C: Precious Achuiwa

Grizzlies’ Lineup

Ja is out with the knee as is Sam Merrill (ankle). Ziaire Williams (knee) is questionable.

PG: Tyus Jones, De’Anthony Melton, Jarrett Culver

SG: Desmond Bane, John Konchar

SF: Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson

PF: Jaren Jackson Jr, Brandon Clarke

C: Steven Adams, Xavier Tillman, Killian Tillie

The Line

Moneyline: Grizz +155; Raps -188

Spread: Raptors -5

O/U: 218.5

Adon’s thoughts: No Ja. No problem.

Conclusion:  Raps; Raps -5; Under.

Bet wisely, friends.

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