Rudy Gay came back to Memphis and, for one night at least, made the team that traded him away look bad.
Gay put the 11-37 nightmare in Houston behind him by putting up 23 points in a coast-to-coast 103-87 win for Toronto over a Grizzlies team that looked nothing like the grit-n-grind group of years past.
The Raptors had 11 assists by halftime, one more than in the double overtime loss to the Rockets two nights earlier. They only finished with 14, but it was enough to hold off a third quarter rally lead by Grizzlies guard Mike Conley, who scored 29.
Memphis tied the game at 70 late in the third quarter but a 12-1 run by the Raptors that extended into the early fourth quarter put the game away. For perhaps the first time all season, Gay, DeMar DeRozan (18 points, 13 in the first quarter) and Kyle Lowry (21 points, six assists), all played well together.
The Raptors' defense was also strong, limiting Memphis to 43% shooting and forcing 17 turnovers. There's no way Memphis' management team regrets the Gay trade, but this is one small measure of revenge for the much-maligned Gay.
Some additional notes:
- This was the first time I'd seen them this season, but Memphis doesn't look good. Zach Randolph appears to have lost another step and the team labors to create good looks on offense, especially in the half court. Perhaps most surprisingly, Memphis has been well below average on defense so far, the area of the game that has been their calling card the past few years. If that trend continues, they could be in serious jeopardy of missing the playoffs entirely in the ultra-competitive West. I certainly don't see them as a serious contender for home court in the first round.
- Terrence Ross put together his second strong game in a row, scoring eight points and grabbing four rebounds in 20 minutes of work. Especially encouraging is his defense. With a long, wiry frame and incredible athleticism, Ross has always had the potential to be a good defensive player. It looks like he's finally starting to make good on some of that upside.
- There's no question that Dwight Buycks has won the back up point guard battle, if we can call it that. Buycks played 12 minutes, scoring four points and generally acquitting himself well. He impressively split a double team in the second quarter and is just a more dynamic option than D.J. Augustin, who only saw one minute of garbage time action.
- Jonas Valanciunas had a quiet night 30 minutes, with four points and seven rebounds on 1-6 shooting. On the broadcast Leo Rautins repeatedly made the point that Valanciunas wasn't getting enough touches and that's surely true (he only saw the ball twice in the first quarter, for example). Still, there have been many stretches when Valanciunas has been all but invisible out there. There's no need to panic, but it has been a mildly disappointing start to the season for the presumed future of the franchise.