The Toronto Raptors’ road trip continues with their third game in four nights. Tonight, they head to the Home of the Blues — Memphis Tennessee — to play the Grizzlies.
After starting the six-game trip with two consecutive wins, the Raptors ran out of steam Saturday night versus the Hawks. Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet have once again played heavy minutes in the last two games, which has been consistent throughout this season. The two guards rank fourth and fifth in the league in minutes per game and only one other team has two players in the top-10 — the Brooklyn Nets with James Harden and Kevin Durant.
The Grizzlies have much better success spreading minutes around with no player averaging above the 30-minute mark, but Memphis does come into tonight having lost three straight for a 9-9 record. This is also the Grizzlies second three-game losing streak of the season. And they’re also dealing with a bunch of injuries. Still, it’s not all bad in Memphis though, as those losses sandwiched a striking 7-game win streak.
In all, this a young team that can be streaky and buckle down defensively, so the Raptors will need to match the intensity on that end of the floor to come out victorious in this one.
Here are the game details.
Where to Watch:
TSN, 8 PM ET
Toronto – Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Norm Powell, Pascal Siakam, Aron Baynes
Memphis – Ja Morant, Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, Brandon Clarke, Xavier Tillman
Toronto – OG Anunoby (calf – out), Patrick McCaw (knee – out)
Memphis – Jaren Jackson Jr. (knee – out), Justice Winslow (hip – out), Brandon Clarke (calf – out), Sean McDermott (shoulder – out), De’Anthony Melton (shoulder – out), Killian Tillie (foot – out)
Protect the Paint
Memphis truly enjoys getting into the paint. This is a team that only shoots 30.9 threes per game, which ranks in the bottom five of the league. At the same time, however, the Grizzlies average 54.6 points in the paint, which puts them in the top three in the league.
The Grizzlies’ offense relies heavily on getting into the paint to be successful, as 66.3 percent of their field goals attempted come within two-point range. They also average 53.2 drives per game. Both numbers rank them in the top ten of the league.
For Memphis, everything is led by their point guard Ja Morant, who averages 11 two-point field goals per game and is successful 54.5 percent of the time. Guards Tyus Jones and Desmond Banes, as well as wings Brandon Clarke and Kyle Anderson, also have high two-point field goal percentages. And don’t forget the frontcourt: big men Xavier Tillman, Jonas Valanciunas and Gorgui Dieng are all shooting above 55 percent from two as well.
The Raptors will need to cut the Grizzlies guards and wings off from being able to attack the rim tonight. With Nick Nurse as Toronto’s head coach, this could mean playing a lot of zone defense tonight to try and encourage threes from Memphis.
Rebound to Transition
This is my fourth game preview of the season and it’s my third time mentioning transition offense, running on offense or fastbreak offense, so here we are again.
The Raptors are simply at their best when their defense is locked in and they’re able to push the ball up the court. In a way, Memphis is a similar team as they can be good defensively too, and they get out and run, ranking third in the league in fastbreak points.
Toronto continues to be one of the worst rebounding teams in the league, however, which makes transition offense a bit difficult, yet they rank fourth in fastbreak points.
Without Anunoby, the Raptors, who already struggle with length, are even smaller, which makes rebounding a struggle — and makes it tougher on defense too. Their top rebounders include the obvious: Siakam, Chris Boucher, Anunoby and Baynes — and then there’s Lowry and VanVleet.
This is a game where the Raptors will need the energy of their bench — particularly Yuta Watanabe, DeAndre’ Bembry, and Stanley Johnson — to crash the glass. The Grizzlies are a young team that want to push the pace and attack. The Raptors will need to counter that, and they’ll need a collective team effort on the boards so they too can get out in transition for easy buckets.
Long Range Touch
Prior to the Saturday night’s loss to the Hawks, the Raptors had shot 40 percent or better from three-point range in four of their last five games. The 13-for-38 shooting from beyond the arc versus Atlanta could be attributed to the team running out of gas — tired legs from playing the night before in Brooklyn — so hopefully it’s just an outlier.
If the Raptors can get back to the above 40 percent mark from deep, they could run Memphis out of the building. The Grizzlies struggle to score from beyond the arc and have an offensive rating in the bottom-10 of the league. As we’ve seen in this season, when the Raptors’ are hitting their threes, they’re tough to beat. And for a team like Memphis, who rely more on just two-point attempts, the math may just not work for them.