Pascal Siakam led the Raptors with 19 points, six rebounds and five assists while Scottie Barnes had 13 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter, including two strong interior finishes in the last two minutes. The sophomore stud also stuffed the stat sheet for seven rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks.
The Grizzlies were without three starters in Ja Morant, Dillon Brooks and Steven Adams on Sunday and looked like a team missing continuity, committing 20 turnovers. The guys left had big nights, though, as Desmond Bane dropped 26 points on 10-of-17 shooting while Jaren Jackson Jr. had 18 points, eight boards and four blocks. The loss is the eighth in the last nine games for Memphis.
The victory ends a long, strange road trip for the Raptors — one where they’ve had multiple top players in trade talks around the league — with a 4-3 record. Set against past seven-game trips in franchise history, it’s the most successful record they’ve ever had. It’s a weird thing to say considering how clenched the bottoms have been among everyone for the past two weeks — fans, media and the players themselves. The vibes have been downright awful, and yet, this winning road trip is a big deal. Dare I point it out, but the Raptors now have a five-game home stand and are 2.5 games out of eighth in the East. The season isn’t over for those who want them to make a push.
Tonight, it wasn’t a total team effort, but the flashes were fun — most of them started by the bench. The Grizz got off to a hot start against Toronto’s starters, as Bane hit a pair of threes to establish a 6-2 lead. After Pascal Siakam came over late for help twice during a 7-0 Memphis run, Nick Nurse dug into his bench earlier than usual — as Chris Boucher and Thad Young came in for some energy.
The move paid off. Young had a first quarter steal and score, followed by his first three of the calendar year to cut the Grizzlies lead to six. Thad’s energy really picked up the Raptors intensity on the defensive end too, a theme that carried through the rest of the game.
With a three-point lead heading into the second quarter, the Grizzlies upped their energy to match the Raptors. A parade to the rim was capped with another Bane three, as Memphis went on a 10-4 run to make it 41-32. A pair of threes from Boucher, who started 4-for-4 from distance and finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds, kept Toronto close, however. With the Raptors starters back in, Fred VanVleet put his stamp on the game — playing his best stretch of the night to close the second quarter. A circus layup and triple combo from the Rockford point guard gave the Raptors their first lead, 55-53. Though Memphis would claw the margin back, they’d go into halftime still up just three points.
The third quarter made it look like this game might go like many others have gone for the Raptors this year: a slow fade into a loss. Once again, the Grizzlies started the frame on a run, but unforced turnovers kept the Raptors within striking distance. Still, Memphis had their chances to put the hammer down. Siakam picked up his fifth foul with 4:44 left in the third, forcing him to sit out a long stretch until midway through the fourth quarter.
The Grizzlies, up double digits at 77-66, couldn’t handle the energy of Toronto’s bench, though. Young battled hard on the interior against the likes of Brandon Clarke and Jackson Jr., finishing with 14 points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals. A big rebound at the end of the quarter set up a Malachi Flynn three — ensuring the Raptors went into the fourth down single digits.
Then, in the fourth, it was the Scottie Barnes show. After a Thad Young dunk cut the Grizzlies lead to seven, Barnes barrelled through four Grizzlies defenders to make it five. Siakam’s return came with some critical buckets, as well as a clutch pass out to Barnes for the three (he’s making them now!) to make it 99-96 Memphis.
The Raptors weren’t done. A contested jumper from Siakam was followed by this slick pass into the corner, where Precious Achiuwa was able to take full advantage of a defensive breakdown.
In the clutch, the team turned back to Scottie. A drive and interior jumper over John Konchar was followed by the aforementioned floater, giving the Raptors a lead. In the Grizzlies last meaningful possession, VanVleet was the defensive hero, getting the block inside on Desmond Bane.
The only game between now and the trade deadline for the Raptors is Wednesday at home against the Spurs. The buzz around the team is still leaning towards trade over standing pat. With wins like tonight, though — and a winning road trip that was meant to be “make or break” for front office decision-making — it gets that much more complicated. We just have to wait and see!