The Raptors don’t care about the play-in game, but it doesn’t mean they don’t care about playing basketball. As has been the theme the past few games, Toronto again made it difficult for their opponents — on this night the Memphis Grizzlies — to beat them, despite an obvious lack of talent. Likewise, the Raptors had a chance to steal the win in the fourth quarter. However, as has also been the theme recently, and for most of the season, they didn’t have enough to do it all. Instead, the Grizzlies pulled away with the 109-99 win.
On the plus side, the Raptors effectively shut down Memphis’ Ja Morant, as they were content to let every other Grizzlie try to beat them. The issue for the Raptors on this night, however, was that they had a hard time shutting down everybody else. The Grizzlies punished the Raptors in the paint, led by Jonas Valanciunas’ 18 points, 21 rebounds, and four blocks. Jaren Jackson Jr., meanwhile, was a problem inside and out, leading the Grizzlies in scoring with 20 points. And on top of that, De’Anthony Melton erupted in the fourth with three straight perimeter bombs to give the Grizzlies enough cushion for the rest of the way.
For Toronto, Pascal Siakam kept the Raptors within striking distance, pouring in 18 points and four assists through three quarters. Unfortunately, a shoulder injury ruled him out for the rest of the game. In support, Gary Trent Jr. also had 18 points but struggled throughout the game, shooting 5-for-20. It wasn’t all grim news though: Toronto’s young rookie Jalen Harris dropped a career-high 16 points, including via a couple of spectacular plays at the rim.
The Raptors missed their first seven shots to start the game, but the Grizzlies stooped to their level, going away from the paint after two easy layups to start the game. Still, Toronto’s offense looked flat, and the Grizzlies took advantage of the Raptors’ poor transition defense to jump to an 11-5 lead. Thankfully, Siakam started to turn it on offensively, which gave the squad some life. They needed whatever they could get, as the Grizzlies continued to operate in the paint while Toronto aggressively trapped Ja Morant up top. Eventually, Harris helped spark a 9-0 run to tie the game at 26 by the end of the quarter.
An and-1 from Rodney Hood in the post got the Raptors their first lead of the game, at 29-28. However, the second quarter was a serious display of offensive futility. The heavy bench crews for both teams combined to go 3-of-16 for the first five minutes of the second, with things only turning around once the starters returned. Memphis woke up first with a 10-5 run to tie the game at 40. They also targeted Malachi Flynn, who picked up two fouls in 90 seconds, earning himself a trip to the bench. Morant got his first basket on an alley-oop dunk in transition to push the Grizzlies’ lead up to 47-43. But the Raptors responded thanks to Khem Birch and an and-1 dunk. The score at the half — after Toronto went 0-for-8 from deep — 47-46 for the Grizz.
To bolster Toronto’s offense in the third, Harris put up a quick five points as soon as he checked into the third quarter. The Raptors managed to cut Memphis’ lead to seven late in the quarter, but a costly turnover saw Morant get his easiest shot of the night with a breakaway dunk to finish the quarter by pushing the Grizzlies’ lead to 81-72.
The final frame became a showcase for perhaps the next era of the Raptors, as Siakam was ruled out to return to the game due to a shoulder injury. Harris opened up with a dunk and a couple of free throws. Flynn, not to be outdone, set up Birch for a pick-and-roll alley-oop. The rookie duo played to perfection in transition too, as Harris’ drive-and-kick game set up Flynn’s three-pointer in transition.
Unfortunately, the Raptors went on to also lose Rodney Hood to a hand injury — diagnosed as a fractured finger, which likely ends his season for Toronto. The Raptors weren’t done competing though, as Trent Jr’s top-of-the-key trifecta cut Memphis’ lead to 85-84, capping a 10-0 run. As mentioned though, Melton’s back-to-back-to-back three-pointers gave the Grizzlies some breathing room once again, putting them up 96-86. It should have been all over then for the Raptors, especially after they came out of a timeout looking flat. Instead, just when things were heading to a late blowout for the Grizzlies, Flynn led the Raptors on a mini-run. It ultimately fell short, but still.
In all, Flynn pulled up for a three and forced Morant to turn the ball over a couple of possessions later. Meanwhile, Yuta Watanabe dropped his own three-pointer, and Flynn nailed a reverse layup off a Grizzlies miss, cutting their lead to 102-97. A full comeback wasn’t to be though, as Kyle Anderson’s banker pretty much sealed it — and Melton added yet another three to make sure.
As it stands now, the Raptors are just one loss or Indiana Pacers win away from being officially eliminated from play-in contention. To fully contemplate that, the team gets two days off before taking on the Clippers on Tuesday. We’ll see which Raptors are left to play by then — let alone compete.