WHO: Memphis Grizzlies (10-10, 3-5 away) @ Toronto Raptors (9-12, 2-7 at home)
WHEN: 18:30 CT
WHERE: Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario, Canada
HOW TO SEE / LISTEN: Bally Sports Southeast / 92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Yes Morant (Out, Knees), Sam Merrill (Out, Ankle), Ziaire Williams (Doubtful, Knees)
TORONTO: Goran Dragic (Away, Personal), AND Anunoby (Away, Hip), Khem Birch (Away, Knees), Gary Trent Jr. (Doubtful, put)
MEMPHIS: Tyus Jones, Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks, Jaren Jackson Jr., Steven Adams
TORONTO: Fred VanVleet, Svi Mykhailiuk, Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, Precious Achiuwa
The Memphis Grizzlies started their holiday season without Ja Morant well last Sunday night as they ran the Sacramento Kings out of the gym. This was quite impressive considering that the Grizzlies were without their best player – but make no mistake, the Sacramento Kings were not in full force either. While Harrison Barnes and Richaun Holmes are not a Ja Morant in terms of power, they are both key wheels for a productive Sacramento attack. Memphis had to take advantage of a weakened Kings team – with Yes out, all possible victories are welcome, no matter what context they come with.
The same can be said tonight as the Grizzlies head north across the border to take on the Toronto Raptors. AND Anunoby have been a revelation to the Raptors this season, scoring over 20 points per game. battle for a Toronto team that is apparently stuck between two realities. On the one hand, they are rebuilding after moving on from their second franchise cornerstone Kyle Lowry and embracing a younger roster as Gary Trent Jr., Precious Achiuwa and Scottie Barnes are at the center. On the other hand, players like Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam are still involved and remember days of more competitive basketball for the Raptors.
How long does it last? A fair question – especially Siakam seems to pop up in trade rumors once a week or so. But Toronto will not be at full strength against Memphis either … just as they were not last week when these two teams stood in place. And the Grizzlies actually had Yes Morant. And Memphis lost … at home. At full strength.
It’s not going to be easy tonight. Here’s how the Grizzlies can cope on a tough final time-out against the Raptors.
Slow Fred VanVleet
He has without a doubt been one of the best players in the NBA so far this season, which apparently very few talk about. He is a draw with OG Anunoby for the Raptors lead in points per. match at 20.1 while handing out 6.5 assists and snatching 5 rebounds on average each time. VanVleet is a 39.3% three-point shooter that creates problems for anyone tasked with defending him. He is cunning enough to create space outside the dribbling / screens, while he is more than capable of making attacks on himself if the rotations come too late. On a Raptors team that is remarkably balanced (five players averaging more than 15 points per game), VanVleet is the most influential at this point in the season.
Last week, when these two teams met, VanVleet had 23 points on 14 shots along with 7 assists, 6 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks. If that happens again, Memphis will have a hard time winning this game. The Grizzlies have to throw various match-ups against VanVleet (preferably Dillon Brooks / De’Anthony Melton) and make him uncomfortable. He had four turnovers against the Grizzlies last Wednesday – the more possessions for this Memphis offense without Morant, the better.
Keep spreading the love
The Memphis Grizzlies need to remember that without Ja Morant, there is no reason to try to save the season on their own. They had quite success with this on Sunday against the Kings – Memphis had several layers of production across the list when it came to especially scoring, rebounding and offensive facilitation. Yes Morant is a superstar that is impossible to replace. But if the Grizzlies prioritize playing selfless basketball, he can be replicated in the overall – Moneyball style. That means making the extra pass, setting the extra screen, slamming the glass down to limit possession to Toronto / get additional offensive chances for the Grizzlies … but it has to be done to keep up without the powerful Morant.
Together. If they keep it together, they will have the same success.
The Grizzlies are the underdogs in this game with four points to the Raptors. With Yes out, this makes good sense – tip the cap to the home team, which even without Anunoby has lots of offensive balance / firepower. It will take a lot of effort from Memphis to get through the Raptors. But this team has been looking for something to gather behind, and without Ja on the road for the first time this season, there may be an opening to show some growth as a team.
A Toronto victory would make complete sense and would certainly not be the doom of the world. But give me Memphis in a squeaker.
Memphis 110, Toronto 108
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