Despite different personnel on both sides, the Raptors will be hoping for a redux of last week’s win over the Grizzlies in Memphis as they try to turn the tides of their recent skid.
A loss to the Celtics has fans feeling dour again, as a myriad of injuries once again has Toronto scrambling to bring enough talent to the table on a nightly basis. Fred VanVleet, Scottie Barnes and Pascal Siakam are basically the engine that run things now, as OG Anunoby will once again miss tonight’s game with a hip pointer, Khem Birch continues to sit, and Gary Trent Jr. will be a game-time decision with a calf issue.
Still, not all is rosy on the game report for the Grizzlies either. Ja Morant, he who dictated the early part of last week’s game and has been one of the sizzling stories in the young NBA season, has been sidelined with a knee injury. While the team is hoping he won’t be out long-term, any time spent going from Morant to Tyus Jones will hurt.
That leaves us with two battered and bruised teams duking it out on a Tuesday night. We’ll see who can overcome.
Here are tonight’s game details.
Where to Watch:
Sportsnet, 7:30 PM ET
Toronto — Fred VanVleet, Svi Mykhailiuk, Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, Precious Achiuwa
Memphis — Tyus Jones, Dillon Brooks, Desmond Bane, Jaren Jackson Jr., Steven Adams
Toronto — Gary Trent Jr. (calf - questionable), OG Anunoby (hip - out), Khem Birch (knee - out), Goran Dragic (personal - out)
Memphis — Ja Morant (knee - out), Sam Merrill (ankle - out)
Pressure on Fred
The Athletic’s Eric Koreen wrote an excellent article after the Raptors’ loss to Boston over the weekend, focusing on how much Toronto is asking from Fred VanVleet. One of the takeaways is that the Raptors basically need VanVleet to play 40 minutes in order to have a chance at success.
With Goran Dragic gone from the team due to personal reasons, and unlikely to return for any sort of basketball purpose, VanVleet is essentially on an island of impact. Malachi Flynn can come in and give the Raptors good minutes, but nobody else on the roster has been able to singlehandedly create momentum for multiple possessions like VanVleet. Not OG Anunoby, not Pascal Siakam — Fred is really the list.
Tonight, without Morant in the lineup for Memphis, the pressure is on VanVleet yet again. A favourable matchup with Tyus Jones will create opportunities for him to score. Even against a full strength Memphis team, it was Fred who had the best stretch of the game — hitting a three, setting up Siakam, and making free throws to stretch the Raptors lead to seven and out of reach.
While betting on yourself might have limits, the Raptors will continue to push to see where those are.
Need a Bench Hero
It’s no surprise with the continued absence of multiple bodies (one comes in, another goes out), that the Raptors already-thin bench has taken the biggest hit. Presumed sixth man Chris Boucher has been disappointing on the defensive end and again, while other players have had their moments, consistency remains an issue.
The Raptors rank 30th in the NBA in bench scoring. Their bench has been outscored by opposing reserves in 15 of 21 games this season and by 187 points overall, including a 74-28 margin over the last 2 games.— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) November 29, 2021
(Yes, injuries have played a big part in that)
So, can somebody pop tonight? Will it be the aforementioned Flynn making some shots and getting into the paint? Maybe Isaac Bonga can create energy on the glass? The questions seem dire, but the Raptors really need to loosen the pressure on their starters if they’re going to win games and sustain success. If someone could “have a game” tonight, it’d be great news.
In last week’s win over Memphis, a slow start essentially came down to lazy defense and an inability to slow the Grizzlies’ downhill-focused attack. Jaren Jackson Jr. got hot early (he tapered off later), while beefy boys Desmond Bane and Dillon Brooks were able to score easy baskets inside.
Then, there was a revelation of a quarter from Precious Achiuwa (all 17 of his points in one frame), and a chaotic Raptors defense that was able to force Memphis into discomfort. They’ll need to repeat this if they’re going to have success on Tuesday.
Don’t be surprised either if Boucher has another DNP-CD in this one, even it’s more matchup-focused than not wanting to give him a chance. His minutes were poor against the Grizzlies and the Raptors will need a tough body at the back of their defense in order to hang with Memphis for 48 minutes.