Toronto and Memphis — the two NBA powerhouses you’ve come to know and love. It’s weird to think how consistently good these teams have been recently (save for the occasional off-year from Memphis; let me prove a point). Weirder still to consider they were once both Canadian teams, but we’ll leave that part aside for now.
The Grizzlies, coming off a loss at home to the Knicks Sunday, finish up a two-game homestand. Toronto is on the road for just a single game after Sunday’s win against Miami; they’ll be back at home Thursday to host the defending champion Warriors.
Let’s dive into some details, why don’t we?
Where to Watch
Sportsnet One, 8PM
Toronto: Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam, Jonas Valanciunas
Memphis: Mike Conley, Garrett Temple, Kyle Anderson, Jaren Jackson Jr., Marc Gasol
Toronto: Norman Powell (shoulder) - day-to-day
Memphis: Dillon Brooks (knee) - out, Chandler Parsons (knee) - out
As it turns out, a Grizz-Raptors contest has plenty of interesting match-ups to keep an eye on.
Let’s start at the point guard position. Mike Conley is really good. Kyle Lowry is better. And they’re friendly! Lowry, drafted by Memphis way back when, and Conley go all the way back to that way back when I just mentioned. In order to fulfil part of a cliche quota for this article, both guards are excellent at making things happen. Lowry and Conley both break down opposing defenses and find cutters, slashers, shooters, whatever, you can fill in the blank. Both can shoot it — one well (Lowry), the other bouncing back after a bad year (Conley). I feel like whenever we talk about Mike Conley, we have to talk about him being underrated enough that maybe he’s properly rated. I think that’s an underrated part of Mike Conley discussion.
Another pairing to watch is positively Spurs-ian: it’s Kawhi taking on Kyle “Slow-Mo” Anderson! As esteemed basketball coach Gregg Popovich would have you know, the Spurs are a tremendous organization. If a player leaves or is let go, there is usually something wrong with him. But in this case, these two forwards are capital-G Good. And one, in particular, is capital-G Great. The latter is known to be a Toronto Raptor and a good leader-by-example, if that’s a good enough clue for you.
Grit and Grind
Memphis is second in points allowed per 100 possessions this season per Cleaning the Glass. They are returning to the Grit and Grind ways of years past — maybe in part due to assistant coach Jerry Stackhouse — and locking teams down. They’re not an offensive juggernaut despite the pieces they have on that end, ranking 25th in points scored. They’re going to grind games to a halt and try and stop you — yes, you, the reader, look out — from scoring.
If the Raptors can play with the pace they worked with against the Heat, a team that’s typically well-regarded for its staunch defence (11th in points allowed), they’ll be able to break things down nicely and put themselves in a good position to win basketball games. I’m trying to sound very commentator-like at least a couple of times per article, how did that go?
This also could’ve found its way into my “Matching Up” section, but I decided I wanted to fit the usual HQ preview format and do three headers so I did. Jaren Jackson Jr. is a fun rookie for Memphis — it was on display in the loss to the Knicks on Sunday when he went 6-for-6 (including 4-for-4 from three) for 16 points, while adding 6 rebounds and 3 assists for good measure. Throwing Pascal Siakam at him will be fun.
Basically, this game is going to be good stuff. There is plenty to watch here on this cold Tuesday.