Bring back the Vancouver Grizzlies, you cowards! All right, now that we’ve got that out of our collective systems, it’s time to do a little digging into tonight’s matchup between two defense-first teams in the Memphis Grizzlies and the Toronto Raptors. If both teams have it their way, this game is going to end with a scoreline of 88-86, or in that neighbourhood.
There are two players who could, conceivably, account for near-half of their team’s points in Pascal Siakam and Ja Morant — veritable stars who are doing their part to carry the load of their struggling teams. Both Pascal and Ja have been dropping 30+ piece buckets on their opponents, but both are routinely looking at the same results: an L. After going 9-1, Ja Morant took to the airwaves and announced that no team gives him pause — save for the Boston Celtics — and then Memphis proceeded to drop 4 out of their next 5. Siakam — who does the opposite of what Ja did by continuing to preach hard work and preparation for the next opponent — is averaging 35.8 points over his last five but only has two wins to show for his efforts.
Despite Pascal’s brilliance, Toronto would appear to have an extremely up-hill battle to climb against the Grizzlies, especially if Fred VanVleet isn’t able to play due to his back stiffness. Only shooting 11% from three-point range since returning from injury, will the Raptors laissez-faire approach to opponent’s distance shooting awaken Desmond Bane from his slumber? Can Toronto do anything to dissuade Steven Adams from imposing his will on the glass? How about Jaren Jackson Jr. and his shot-blocking prowess and Dillon Brooks’ incredible ability to run his mouth to change the tide of the game? That’s a lot of factors without even mentioning Ja’s ability to turn supernova!
On the flip-side, can any other Raptors player not named OG Anunoby bring enough to the table to support their burgeoning superstar? Toronto could certainly use an uptick in Gary Trent’s recent resurgence since being shifted to the bench. A healthy helping of Scottie Barnes’ wizardry is going to be in order as well, especially with the way Memphis packs the paint with their menacing shot-blocker in Jaren Jackson Jr. and the Raptors inability to convert from beyond the arc.
Ultimately, the Raptors are going to need an all-hands on deck approach to take down one of the best teams in the West. Their recent showing against the Clippers should be evidence enough.
Where to Watch:
SportsNET 7:30pm EST
Toronto – Fred VanVleet, Scottie Barnes, O.G. Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Juancho Hernangomez
Memphis – Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks, Jaren Jackson Jr., Steven Adams
Toronto – Precious Achiuwa (ankle – questionable), Christian Koloko (knee – questionable), Otto Porter Jr. (toe – out), Fred VanVleet (back – questionable)
Memphis – Danny Green (knee – out)