It's funny how much one game derailed the good vibes that surrounded the Raptors heading into the All-Star break. There really was no worse way for Toronto come out of the gate after its vacation. With criticism raining down after Masai Ujiri's silent trade deadline, and the ever-present fear of the Bulls as a potential playoff match-up, the Raptors really could have used a win in Chicago on Friday night.
That of course didn't happen. A battered Bulls teams demolished a shaky Toronto defense on its way to a 116-106 win, inciting wide ranged skepticism about the team's potential this season.
There's a chance to calm the waters tonight, though, against a team in a state that is anything but settled.
Memphis rolls into town still lamenting the loss of Marc Gasol to a broken foot, and having just inserted a whole bunch of crazy into the mix with its deadline moves. New additions Lance Stephenson, P.J. Hairston and Chris Andersen along with Matt Barnes, Mario Chalmers and Tony Allen - a dude who literally growls at his opponents - have come together in Tennessee to form the most reality show-worthy roster in the league; Zach Randolph would somehow be the measured, reasonable character that the viewer roots for on that show.
This is all to say that while the Raptors aren't perfect, and face some tough questions as they embark on the stretch drive, fans should be glad to follow a franchise on such steady footing.
Even without Gasol, the 32-22 Grizzlies pose a challenge, but this should be a game the Raptors can take. As our Dan Grant points out in the game preview, the Grizzlies are a poor offensive team that struggles to rebound the ball. Jonas Valanciunas, who was the Raptors best player on Friday, has an opportunity to post another big game against the depleted Memphis front court, and help the Raptors get the positivity train on track.