The boys are back in town after a disappointing road trip to take on the Memphis Grizzlies tonight at Scotiabank Arena. The team from Tennessee trots into town with a 15-27 record and an offense that ranks 29th in the league, but the ninth ranked defence. The home team on the other hand, has built the 16th ranked offence and the 16th ranked defence, which has them as a 6.5 point favourite on the night.
For those tracking Tankathon, tomorrow’s game against Memphis has some extra stakes to it.— Esfandiar Baraheni (@JustEsBaraheni) January 21, 2024
Lose, and the Grizzlies jump the Raptors in the standings.
Win, and the Raptors further separate themselves from a chance at top 6 lotto odds. https://t.co/XtKQGTUbzX
While fans are still getting used to the new look Raptors (not that they don’t love them, there is just a size 43 hole in the lineup), the Grizzlies don’t look all that much like themselves heading into the matchup either. Ja Morant has been lost to a season ending injury, and Marcus Smart, Steven Adams, Brandon Clark, Desmond Bane, and Derick Rose are also sidelined with injuries; Xavier Tillman is questionable with a knee issue. Jakob Poetl remains sidelined for Toronto.
As different as the teams look from their previous meeting, it’s worth remembering that the Raptors took that contest by a score of 116-111. Toronto managed to shoot 48.2% overall that night and had a lead as large as 20, before allowing it to get much closer than they needed to. (Story of the season, right?)
New Kids are the Key
The Grizzlies have already seen two of the newest Raptors in the red and black this season, as the previous matchup was the second game for both RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley; and it’s safe to say Memphis probably isn’t too excited about seeing the duo again.
Quickley put up a team high 26 points in the January 3 showdown and really hasn’t slowed down since. What has been perhaps most impressive so far, however, is Quickley’s fit with superstar Scottie Barnes. As the Raptors entered their retooling era, it was apparent the the biggest qualification anyone who might enter the fold needed to have would be their ability to play with the new face of the franchise.
The biggest key for Quickley’s fit with Barnes, and what has made him such a pivotal piece of the puzzle of late is his shooting. Since the start of 2022/23, Quickley has hit 37.7% of his three-point attempts, a stat made even more impressive when you realize that a large portion of those shots are self-created, pull-up shots. His shocking accuracy on the pull-up three (40.6%) forces defenders to react to him differently and opens up the opportunity for a whole lot more success on the Raptors pick-and-roll plays. These pieces combined with his innate mechanics make it a safe assumption that he’ll continue to be a star shooter and someone who can benefit off of the looks that Barnes initiates.
Immanuel Quickley 3pt Shooting % Off-the-Dribble by year:— DJ (@DJAceNBA) November 16, 2023
20-21' | 35%
21-22' | 35%
22-23' | 36%
23-34' | 40% pic.twitter.com/f745rm30Im
As for the other former Knick, Canadian RJ Barrett came in a guaranteed fan favourite just for being a homegrown kid, but he has certainly endeared himself to Northern faithful even more with his stellar play. It was obvious that New York likely never got the best that Barrett had to offer but nobody could have predicted the clip he would hit once he returned to his beloved bagged milk and Osmows. The Missasauga native is averaging 20.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 3.9 assists over his last 10 games with the Raptors and has been an incredible conduit of energy and grit every time he touches the paint.
Despite the depleted state the Grizzlies are coming to town with, Quickley and Barrett will still need to continue to show up as they have since their first touch of the ball in Raptors’ threads.
Game on the Glass
Dear friend of Raptors HQ, Keerthika Uthayakumar likes to remind Raptors fans that not all fun facts are fun…and this one falls into that category: Toronto is averaging 38.7 rebounds in their last seven games which is the worst rate in the NBA. They’re also securing 45.3% of available boards, also worst in the league.
Fun fact: Raptors are averaging 38.7 rebounds in their last 7 games, worst in the NBA.— Keerthika Uthayakumar (@keerthikau) January 21, 2024
They're only grabbing 45.3% of available rebounds, also the worst mark in the NBA over the last 7 games.
The plummeting of the Raptors’ rebounding coincides with the loss of Jakob Poetl, and given that he won’t be back in the immediate future, the team is going to need more than the band-aid solution of relying Thad Young and Jontay Porter as the only true-centre options to lead grabs off of the glass.
There is the expectation that the team pick up some of the slack in this contest, however, with some of Memphis’ most dominant rebounders sidelined, but the overall trend is still a cause for concern. When playing full-strength teams (or just teams above .500) the lack of size that Toronto now finds themselves with could make for long nights in the paint and lots more not-so-fun facts.
Trade Bait Showcase
As soon as news of Bruce Brown being involved in the Pascal Siakam trade broke, Raptors fans held their breath all over again knowing that this was likely a sign that the team wasn’t done making moves this year. Former champion Brown seems tailor-made to only be making a brief stop in Toronto, meaning that the games he does play for the Raptors are an audition of sorts for contenders looking to add a piece down the stretch.
Brown certainly impressed fans around the league when he got into the Raptors lineup without ever having practiced with his new teammates, didn’t know any of the plays, and was jet-lagged but still contributed heavily to his new group. Brown’s perhaps best known as a supremely effective cutter, who may not be the most dangerous shooter but will certainly make up for any misses with the energy he brings to the court. Combine that with his seemingly innate ability to find space to get to the rim and you have a shiny trade chip that could fetch the Raptors a decent return.
Bruce Brown found out he was a member of the Raptors 32-ish hours ago. He got to Toronto today and hasn't practised with his new teammates.— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) January 19, 2024
15 points and 7 rebounds in 25 minutes, including the entire 4th quarter (where he scored 8 of his points). Not a bad debut.
The former Pacer should have plenty of room to shine tonight against the Grizzlies and their struggling defence and will give Raptors fans plenty to work with to make their trade-propoganda tapes to show opposing fan bases as to why their team should add stock to Toronto in exchange for him.
Fans can watch tonight’s action on TSN 4 and 5 with pre-game coverage starting at 7:00PM EST ahead of the 7:30PM tip-off. Be sure to come back here for a recap of the contest at the end of the night.