Many fans have probably shoved the first half of the Raptors versus Grizzlies matchup from November 27 into the room of ‘forgettable memories’. And why not? The Raptors have had more bright moments than unremarkable ones this season, leading to their 34-13 record.
That night however, the Raptors trailed the Grizzlies by 71-59 at halftime before a second half push that led to an eight-point victory. As forgettable as the first half was, the second half was something to keep in mind for good. With the Grizzlies coming to Toronto for a Saturday night matchup, the Raptors must be mindful of both.
January’s 7-2 record looks pretty for the Raptors, but a closer look shows close wins over the Hawks, Wizards and Suns — three teams that hold similar records to the Grizzlies. So, the Raptors can’t sleep on this Memphis team that still has Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, although they come into this game having lost five in a row.
Conley has been the better player the last stretch of games than Gasol. Over the last eight games for the Grizzlies, Conley is averaging 20.6 points, while Gasol is only averaging 11.6 points over the same time. In their Nov. 27 matchup, the Raptors used Fred VanVleet in the second half to slow down Conley, who scored 20 points on 19 attempts. Gasol had the better game with 27 on 10-of-14 shooting.
The Raptors could use this game as a hopeful blowout win to ease the workload of their starters, specifically Lowry, who was supposed to take the Suns game off as a maintenance day but ended up playing 40 minutes.
The Raptors come into Saturday playing their third game in four nights. Their schedule ahead includes a back-to-back that involves travel from Toronto to Indiana on the backend, and a trip to Houston and Dallas before returning home to play Milwaukee.
The Grizzlies also come into the matchup having played three games in four nights, including a matchup against Boston last night. They’ve had to play Houston, Milwaukee and Boston in their last three games, and now must play the Raptors. The current four game losing streak for the Grizzlies makes sense with that schedule.
Therefore, this makes for the perfect game for the Raptors to get out to an early lead and give the key players long rests ahead of a tough but manageable schedule.
Where to Watch:
Sportsnet One (SN1) at 7:30pm EST
Toronto – Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka
Memphis – Mike Conley, Justin Holiday, Garrett Temple, Jaren Jackson Jr., Marc Gasol
Toronto – Jonas Valanciunas (OUT – hand), OG Anunoby (OUT – personal)
Memphis – Chandler Parsons (OUT – trying to get out of Memphis), Dillon Brooks (OUT – toe), Kyle Anderson (OUT – ankle)
Need to Stop Gasol
Marc Gasol’s numbers over the last stretch of games haven’t been great. Nevertheless, Gasol enjoys his matchup against the Raptors: his career 23.3 points per game against Toronto in 19 games is the highest against any opponent. He’s also doing that at almost 50% percent shooting from the field.
Valanciunas is still a couple weeks away from returning for the Raptors, so it’ll be on Ibaka and Greg Monroe to slow down the Spaniard. The centres for opposing teams in the Raptors last three games have posted (Deandre Ayton) 15 points and 17 rebounds, (Al Horford) 24 points and seven rebounds, and (Thomas Bryant) 18 points and 11 rebounds.
It’ll be a heavy task for Ibaka and Monroe, especially since Gasol is one of the best centres in the NBA. The two have struggled this past week trying to stop their fellow big men, but Gasol’s legs are on a back-to-back so the Raptors need to shut him down early with physical play.
Do You Lowry
At the end of Thursday’s game versus the Suns, Lowry mentioned that its his job to get everyone involved and to make sure he’s getting the offense rolling through other guys. It’s becoming apparent that the Raptors do, however, need Lowry’s scoring to improve a little more. Not just the points, but efficiency as well.
An interesting and candid take from Lowry on the challenge of finding the balance between looking for his own offence and getting his teammates going: pic.twitter.com/LYUr2Gp0CW— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) January 18, 2019
Lowry’s 31 percent from three is his worst percentage since coming to Toronto, and he’s also averaging 11.4 shots per game, which is his lowest with the Raptors since year one. Credit is due with his 9.5 assists per game, as the Raptors offense flows better with him on the court rather than off. It just would be nice to see the point guard and heart of the team find a little more of a scoring touch. This matchup would be best for Lowry to keep doing what he’s done all season.
Amongst NBA guards that average 30 or more minutes, Mike Conley has the fourth best defensive rating at 103.7. It won’t be an easy matchup for Lowry to score against, but it does open the door for him to continue to get his team involved.
The talk about the Raptors “needing” to make a trade has sort of picked up steam. There’s been the “Raptors need a playmaker” talk and the “Raptors need shooters” talk.
After seeing C.J. Miles score 13 points with three 3s against the Suns, the Raptors have hope that the veteran guard can still play. Miles is taking his time to shoot himself out of this slump and we should be OK with that. Nick Nurse has also done a good job getting Miles some minutes, but not a ton — just enough to try to help him find his shooting touch.
Norman Powell has also been better for the Raptors over the last couple weeks. With OG Anunoby out, Powell and Miles need to step up. It just can’t be a one night thing though, the Raptors need consistency from the two and here’s hoping they can do that against the Grizzlies.