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Memphis Grizzlies vs. Toronto Raptors: Previewing Rudy's Return

The Grizzlies are back in Memphis after a...less than desirable trip to Indiana to visit the Pacers. And they return to, lo and behold, Rudy Gay, his inefficiency once again in the flesh at FedEx Forum! So how do the Grizzlies get off the snide and start a West Coast swing at .500?

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sport
2013/2014 NBA Season
3-4 (3-1 home)
Lost 1
3-5 (1-4 road)
Lost 1
November 13th, 2013
FedexForum in Memphis, TN
7:00 PM CDT
Fox SportsSouth/ 92.9 FM ESPN
Possible Starters
Mike Conley PG Kyle Lowry
Tony Allen SG DeMar DeRozan
Tayshaun Prince SF Rudy Gay
Zach Randolph PF Amir Johnson
Marc Gasol C Jonas Valanciunas
2013/14 Advanced Stats
94.9 (26th) Pace 93.8 (T-29th)
99.0 (17th) OEff 100.8 (13th)
102.9 (22nd) DEff 99.2 (11th)

Injury Report

Toronto- None

Memphis- Jerryd Bayless (Questionable, Knee), Quincy Pondexter (Doubtful, Nose)

Check out Raptors HQ for the Toronto perspective on matters.

The Grizzlies are probably quite happy to return to the friendly confines of FedEx Forum, where their domination of the Golden State Warriors occurred just four days ago. That all but seems like a distant memory, as Indiana brought Memphis and their fans back down to Earth with a thorough sch-lacking using their own style of play against them. Stifling defense, slashing wings, transition opportunities, all were there for the Pacers and not for the Grizzlies.

But time marches on, and the NBA season slows down for no man. Tonight's challenge? DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, Amir Johnson, Jonas Valanciunas, Tyler Hansbrough, Terrence Ross and the Toronto Raptors...

What's that you say? I forgot someone? Who would that be? Rudy who?

The return of Rudy Gay to Memphis has been well documented, both here and elsewhere, and what it means depends on the context in which it is being perceived. If you are a fan of highlight reel plays, few and far between acts of "clutchness" and the ever-feared "potential", than Rudy Gay is your man, a 6'8" 230 pound freak of an athlete who can do things like this.

One of my all-time favorite Grizzlies games, and all-time favorite Grizzlies plays.

OR, if you are a disciple of Hollinger, analyzing shot efficiency and true shooting percentage, you despise Rudy Gay. In Toronto's double overtime loss against the Houston Rockets this past Monday night, Rudy Gay scored 29 points, got 10 rebounds and 4 steals. Impressive, right? Well, what if I were to tell you he did it on 11-37 shooting, for a measly 30% from the floor? What if I were to show you this atrocity...


1-12 in the lane. ONE. FOR. TWELVE. That is shockingly terrible. Rudy has struggled shooting so far this season as a whole; 36% from the field on average. Not. Good.

Rudy's offensive struggles take away from the development of other players, which is something Grizzlies fans know all too well.

Rudy's free throw and rebounding numbers are up early, but the shooting is just a huge hindrance. Rudy Gay's off-season eye surgery has apparently been a terrible failure. Or maybe terrible eye sight was just used as an excuse for the truth; Rudy Gay is a volume scorer, a player who needs 20 shots to score 20 points. The unfortunate thing about this for the Raptors is, it takes away from younger players like DeMar DeRozan and Valanciunas, who could possibly benefit from more offensive opportunity.

Granted, DeRozan is also shooting 36% and Rudy's boy Kyle Lowry is "blowing past them both" at 41%, but DeRozan's game is still developing. Valanciunas is raw and could benefit from more offensive focus. Rudy is what he is, it appears, and that would make last season's blockbuster move from the Grizzlies the right one for Memphis moving forward.

Players to Watch

  • For Toronto, aside from the obvious Rudy watch, keep an eye on Valanciunas, Johnson and Hansbrough. The Grizzlies struggled mightily on the boards against Indiana (out-rebounded 45-32) and while that trio is no Hibbert, West and Scola, they are solid rebounders themselves. Add on the fact that Rudy is averaging a career high in boards so far at 7.4 per game and if the Grizzlies do not have a focus on the glass, the Raptors could dominate in that category.
  • For Memphis, how Mike Conley responds to his first really poor game of the season will be interesting to see. It is important to remember that this game has added meaning for Mike as well; he and Kyle Lowry once battled it out for the future of the Grizzlies as the starting Point Guard, a battle which Mike won and Lowry lost, which resulted in Kyle being shipped out of town. These two always compete intensely against each other, and Conley will hopefully benefit from having the best brought out in him by an old foe.

Keys to the Contest

  1. Fast starts. The Grizzlies have struggled at the start of games, and it shows in the break down of how they perform in wins and losses. When the Grizzlies win this season, they shoot 44% in the first quarter from the field and 42% from three. This, plus increased defensive focus, allows for the team to build leads early in games so that the bench can be depended on to keep or build on the lead, not mount a comeback. In losses, Memphis shoots 35% from the field and 27% from 3 in the first quarter. Memphis also gets to the line more in the first quarters of wins than the first quarter of losses. It sounds simple, but the Grizzlies have to attack the basket, get to the line and hit shots early.
  2. Pick up the pace. The Grizzlies have begun to slack once again in regards to pace. They have fallen to 26th in the NBA, and while there have been calls for a shift back to "the way things were", this cannot continue if the Grizzlies hope to get out of their rut. More opportunities are necessary in order for points to be scored. This is done through getting into sets faster, creating easy transition opportunities and finding the post in quicker and more varied ways. High-low sets, low post screens, this can all be done at a faster tempo, enabling an offense that struggles for scoring at times to get more chances at the rim.
  3. Let them have jumpers. Part of defense is taking something away from the offense, not allowing them something in particular and forcing their hand into predictable situations. For the Grizzlies, they have to eliminate the dribble drive penetration and force Toronto into long range jumpers. DeRozan and Gay will likely be happy to oblige if they are given these shots, but Lowry and other Raptors will attempt to get into the lane for either easy lay-ups or passes out to open shooters. Terrence Ross, for example, is shooting 41% from 3 so far this season. Closing up the lane shuts down a lot of the offensive options a team possesses.

The Prediction:

Toronto Raptors 93, Memphis Grizzlies 101

Memphis will get off to a hot start, which will be helped along by Rudy Gay trying too hard and putting his team in a hole early. Toronto will roar back on the energy of Terrence Ross and Hansbrough against the depleted Grizzlies bench and the game will be within 5 heading into the fourth quarter. The starters, and Mike Conley in particular, will then take control and finish off the Raptors.