Who: Memphis Grizzlies vs Toronto Raptors
When: 7:00 pm Wednesday, Nov. 28
Where: FedEx Forum, Memphis TN
Records: Memphis (10-2), Toronto (3-12)
Media: SportSouth, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Forums: 3 Shades of Blue, Grizzlies Message Board
Memphis continues their season long 5 game home streak with the league’s best record but with possible cracks showing in the armor. The Grizzlies lost to Denver to open the streak, defeated the self-destructive Lakers and then struggled mightily against a very average at best Cleveland Cavalier team. Granted the Grizzlies were exhausted against Denver and lacking their on-court leader against Cleveland but it is a trend to keep an eye on. The Grizzlies need to get back to dominating teams and not playing down to their level like they did in seasons past.
Toronto has struggled in so many different ways this season but has come up with some surprising wins at the same time making them a very scary team to play. Their last four games have been decided by 1 point, 1 point, 5 points in a double OT loss before Houston handled them with ease last night. Toronto is playing the second game of a back to back series so fatigue may be a factor for them. Led by former Grizz Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and former #1 pick Andrea Bargnani, the Raptors have talent but have struggled finding the chemistry necessary to go from competitive to winning. Toronto has lost five consecutive games.
Expected Starting Lineups:
Mike Conley vs Kyle Lowry
Mike Conley’s health is still a question but the assignment of Tony Wroten would suggest that Conley is expected tonight. When healthy Conley has become the perfect floor general for Lionel Hollins offense. Always under control and making the right decisions on offense, Conley has matured into a true leader of the team. Lowry prefers a more aggressive style of play, driving the lane hard and creating opportunities by breaking down defenses when they move to cover. Lowry has also developed a surprisingly effective long-range shot.
Tony Allen vs DeMar DeRozan
Tony Allen struggled playing under control on offense early in the season but has settled down now and is still the ferocious defender that has become his trademark. Opposing scorers shrink under the constant pressure Allen brings. DeRozan has finally become the scoring threat expected of him coming out of USC four years ago. DeRozan is averaging a career high 18.7 ppg but has not developed an outside threat to go with his athletic drives to the hoop. When able to beat his defender off the dribble DeRozan can be a handful to stop. Allen will need to avoid foul trouble to stay on the court and harass DeRozan.
Rudy Gay vs Dominic McGuire
Rudy Gay was considered a possible trade bait in the pre-season but has proven to be a formidable partner on one of the best frontlines in the NBA this season. Averaging just under 20 ppg, Gay has developed an inside post up game to go with his perimeter shooting to become a defensive nightmare when single covered. McGuire has not yet developed his game to match his physical prowess. Considered more of a defensive player McGuire is averaging a mere 2.5 ppg which is in line with his career average. He will not be asked to score in this game but to contain Gay. That may be more than he is capable of doing however.
Zach Randolph vs Andrea Bargnani
A matchup of contrasting styles. Randolph is second in the league in rebounding and a near unstoppable force inside the paint. Randolph has matured into a capable passer as well since coming to Memphis. Bargnani prefers to play on the perimeter where his three-point shooting can destroy defensive schemes. Bargnani will certainly get his opportunities on the perimeter but will that be enough to offset Randolph’s power inside? Randolph was outplayed against Cleveland and will likely be looking to make a strong statement in this game which doesn’t bode well for Toronto.
Marc Gasol vs Jonas Valanciunas
This may sound surprising but Toronto has a center that actually could give Gasol trouble. Valanciunas was the top rated European player last season by many experts and is adjusting well to the NBA averaging 9.6 PPG and 6.1 RPG. The 20-year-old has a very promising future ahead of him but still has some learning to do in the NBA. Gasol is in his prime and has become one of the best passing big men in the league. If teams try to drop off him to help with Randolph then Gasol can hit the jumper. If teams play him tight he simply passes down to Randolph under the basket. There hasn’t been a team yet capable of controlling both Grizzlies bigs.
Memphis has finally found a reliable bench to pair with their starting five and is the main reason the Grizzlies find themselves on top of the league. Jerryd Bayless leads the bench in scoring but is by no means the only option. Quincy Pondexter is hitting 43% of his shots from the arc, Darrell Arthur is back from his plethora of injuries to bring energy and defensive intensity along with a nice mid-range shot and Wayne Ellington is dangerous from the arc when left open. Only Mo Speights has disappointed this season and even he has looked good at times. Jose Calderon leads the Raptors bench and provides a nice play-making compliment to Lowry’s head first approach. Linas Kleiza, Ed Davis, Amir Johnson and rookie Terrance Ross, a former teammate of Tony Wroten, all have had moments of good play but haven’t yet found the chemistry needed to be effective as a unit.