Who: Memphis Grizzlies at Toronto Raptors
When: 6:00 PM CST
Where: Air Canada Center, Toronto,
Records: Memphis (34-18), Toronto (22-32)
Media: TNT, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Forums: 3 Shades of Blue, Grizzlies Message Board
Memphis finishes their reunion tour in Toronto after demolishing the Pistons in the reunion stop for Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye. This time it is going to be personal however as Tony Allen and Zach Randolph have ramped up the war of words between the two franchises after Rudy Gay made disparaging comments about Memphis after the trade. The Grizzlies have won 4 games in a row since the trade and are doing so because of their offense as much if not more than their offense. The Grizzlies offense scored over 100 points for the third consecutive game for only the 3rd time all season and the first since Nov 11-16.
Toronto has won five consecutive games including wins at Indiana, over Denver and at New York in the streak. Led by former Grizzlies Rudy Gay, who said he misses nothing about Memphis, and Kyle Lowry, the Raptors are playing better on both sides of the court since the trade. Toronto’s main weakness is rebounding where they rank 28th in the league. Rookie Jonas Valanciunas is looking impressive for the future and Amir Johnson is starting to look more comfortable starting at PF but the Raptors will need help under the basket to be taken seriously as a playoff hopeful. This is not a team to overlook as the wins over the Knicks, Nuggets and Pacers attests but the Grizzlies likely aren’t overlooking this game.
Expected Starting Lineups:
Mike Conley vs Kyle Lowry
Lionel Hollins once proclaimed he was taking the Grizzlies PGs and closing them in a room and see who walked out first. That man was Mike Conley and soon afterwards Kyle Lowry was shipped to Houston. Lowry has made a nice career since leaving Memphis and in many ways has been superior to Conley for most of the time. However, Conley has emerged as the clear leader on a playoff team while Lowry is still searching for his first post-season appearance since 2008-09. Lowry is an aggressive guard who has struggled with his shot but plays good defense.
Tony Allen vs DeMar DeRozan
Tony Allen didn’t take kindly to Rudy Gay’s comments “He’s by far the best two guard he’s ever played with” when asked about DeRozan. Allen has a way of shutting people up when he is upset too. Allen may not be as slick a player as DeRozan but when it comes to effort, guts and determination there are not many players who stack up well against the Grizzlies SG. DeRozan has struggled with his shot over 5 game winning streak hitting just 40.6% of his shots as well. Allen on the other hand has the highest shooting percentage of any guard in the NBA in February. DeRozan may want to tell Rudy to chill out on the comments after this game.
Tayshaun Prince vs Rudy Gay
Rudy Gay may have worn out his welcome in the Grizzlies locker room a while ago but the fans were on his side until he started talking after the trade. Saying he missed nothing about Memphis isn’t going to win you many fans in the Bluff City. Gay may miss having Randolph and Gasol under the basket in this game but he shouldn’t mind Prince’s defense in the slightest. Rudy has not worried about missing shots since he arrived in Toronto as his 38% FG shooting attests. His scoring is up simply because he is taking more shots, a lot more shots actually. Prince wasn’t on his game in Detroit, but that is understandable with all the emotions running in his return to Detroit. Not that it will matter much against Gay.
Zach Randolph vs Amir Johnson
Amir Johnson has stepped up as a starter to average 11.1 PPG and 9.7 RPG in February. Not bad for someone mired behind Ed Davis on the depth chart in January. He’s an athletic specimen. The problem with Johnson is he has a tendency to disappear at times, especially against more aggressive interior players. Zach Randolph almost never takes the night off. He is second in the league in rebounding and double-doubles. Johnson doesn’t have the height that gives Randolph fits but he is faster and can jump higher than Randolph (although honestly who can’t?). Toronto will need Johnson to have a big game on the glass for the Raptors. The question is can he do it?
Marc Gasol vs Jonas Valanciunas
Valanciunas. Remember that name because you are likely going to have to learn how to say it very soon. The 20-year-old Lithuanian should have a bright future in the NBA. He can rebound, pass, has a nice outside shot and has avoided the foul trouble so common for rookie bigs in the NBA. A broken finger has further slowed his progression but he is a player to watch. Marc Gasol is bigger, more experienced and stronger right now which could make it hard on Jonas tonight but mark my words Valanciunas is an interesting big man who has forced former #1 pick Andreas Bargnani to the bench and onto the trade block.
Memphis vs Toronto
Memphis’ bench had a coming out party against Detroit led by former Raptor Ed Davis. Davis’ 14 points on 6-7 shooting, 4 rebounds and 4 blocks in just 21 minutes showed the promise the Grizzlies wanted when they traded Gay to the Raptors for him. The Grizzlies bench scored 49 points against the Pistons with Bayless, Daye, Arthur and even Quincy Pondexter having nice games. Toronto’s bench could be even weaker if the rumors of Bargnani and/or Terrance Ross being traded are true. It’s unlikely since the Raptors are winning but then again people said that about Rudy Gay and Memphis too. Filling out the bench in Toronto are Alan Anderson, Linas Kleiza and John Lucas.