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Raptors vs. Grizzlies: Enter the Grindhouse

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Losing seven of their last ten games, can Toronto put their struggles behind them and win against one of the West’s elite teams?

Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Where to Watch: Sportsnet 360, 8 p.m. EST

As a shot-happy team that gets high usage from its guards, it’s safe to say the Toronto Raptors don’t want to see the Memphis Grizzlies as they’re trying to break out of a slump.

A 92-89 win against Milwaukee on Monday did nothing to quell the voices around Toronto basketball - the offence is still a slog, the defence hasn’t markedly improved since November, the coaching decisions are getting more and more questionable.

With all that noise, the Raptors enter Memphis, Tennessee to play a top ten defensive team - and maybe the NBA's best backcourt defender in Tony Allen.

These two teams met back on November 19 in Toronto, a game the Raptors won 96-92. A signature win for the Dinos, they were led by DeRozan’s 21 points and five rebounds. After going scoreless on Monday for just the fifth time in his career, it’ll be interesting to see if DeMar will impact the game while guarded by Allen.

Obviously when you talk about Memphis, the other big matchups are in the paint. Jonas Valanciunas, who has consistently been pulled by Dwane Casey for lack of defence, will be responsible for Marc Gasol, who’s averaging 19.2 points per game and dropped 22 against the Raptors in November. His frontcourt buddy Zach Randolph was uncharacteristically quiet in that game, but is always a threat to go off against undersized Raptors forwards.

One subplot I’ll be watching anxiously - whether James Johnson gets playing time off the bench. With Terrence Ross plucked from the starting lineup, Johnson didn't play a second against Milwaukee on Monday. The Raptors best statistical defender matches up well against his former team, despite being injured for the November 19 game. If Casey continues to sit him, it’s safe to assume something has gone awry off-court.

The next five Raptors games come against sub-.500 opponents. Get this one, and things might start coming together for a team that’s still working through mud.

What will you be watching for?