Toronto Raptors at Memphis Grizzlies: Game 41 Preview - Beginning of Something Good

Records: Toronto Raptors (14-29) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (24-17)

8:00 PM Eastern Standard Time

FedExForum, Memphis, Tennessee

Line: Even

Opponent Blog: Raptors HQ

Injury Report: TOR: Alabi (illness), Calderon (ankle) DTD ; MEM:Gay (concussion) DTD, Randolph (knee)

In the midst of the annual craze that comes with the trade deadline, one has to remind himself that the sport is played by playing basketball - not receiving text messages, typing e-mails, being glued to an NBA news source, or debating the quality of trades around the league. That's right - tonight, the Grizzlies play basketball.

Memphis welcomes the Toronto Raptors in the midst of a stretch in which the Grizzlies have dropped two of the last three. Tonight the team will step onto the floor with optimism - the Grizzlies have the chance to improve their record over the next few days in a stretch of four-consecutive games against sub-.500 teams.

More after the jump.

Grizz nation is still waiting on the return of Zach Randolph, who hasn't been in the lineup for Memphis since tearing his right MCL during a 104-64 loss in Chicago on January 1. Randolph's return, though, is in the near future: he didn't rule out playing the two games the Grizzlies have this weekend against Toronto and Washington.

When the Los Angeles Lakers visited the Forum this past Tuesday, in addition to Randolph, the Grizzlies were missing Rudy Gay. Gay is currently dealing with a mild concussion that he suffered last Sunday in the 94-91 win over Denver.

However, here's the bright side: even without Randolph and Gay, arguably the team's two "best" players, the Grizzlies managed to take the Lakers into double overtime before taking the loss 116-111.

That's right. The Memphis Grizzlies, who have notoriously claimed one of the worst benches in the league, took one of the big-daddy contenders in the Western Conference to double overtime. They were closer to a win than the box score says - Michael Conley's 3-point shot as time expired in regulation was nearly 6 inches away from the back of the net. If Conley made the shot, the Grizzlies would have gone to sleep with a win. And at a more reasonable bedtime.

Coach Hollins remarked on the quality of the team at the end of the game. "I've got no problem with my team. Our guys played hard. They played with a lot of energy and a lot of heart. We lost to a team that played better," Hollins stated. "We've got to give them their due, and we've just got to get ready to come back on Friday."

Come back on Friday, they will. Memphis has won six straight over Toronto and seven of the last eight at home. These numbers aren't as pretty as one would think: the Grizzlies' last meeting with the Raptors on March 2 required late baskets from Rudy Gay and Tony Allen to secure a 102-99 victory.

The Raptors, on the other hand, have not seen recent success. In their last game in New Jersey (it's hard to read the words "New Jersey" without thinking of the media-mess that is Dwight Howard), Toronto only scored one point in the last 1:06. Toronto was outscored 57-38 in the final 24 minutes and finished at 38.3 percent shooting. They're going to need to rebound from sloppy play if they want to contend with the red-hot Grizzlies (7-3 in their last 10).

Key to the Game:

The Grizzlies are playing tough basketball and have a good record when it comes to playing Toronto. Memphis must concentrate on playing their game - not the game played at the pace of the opponent. Though they're coming from a loss this past Tuesday, the fact that the team took Kobe Bryant and the Lakers into double overtime without their star players plants a seed of confidence in each player wearing a Memphis jersey. Tonight is a mental battle - if the Grizzlies step into and play with this confidence, the win tonight will produce itself.

Oh, and rumors are saying there's a possibility Randolph could return before 8 o'clock tipoff. That could help too.

Final Prediction Toronto 86, Memphis 98

Game thread will be up and runnin' tonight!

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