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Grizzlies Ride Gasol, Randolph to Win Over Raptors

In typical Grizzlies fashion, Memphis relied on their talented big men to win a hard-nosed, ugly basketball game.

Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

The Memphis Grizzlies remain an attractive man trapped in an average man's body, as they defeated the Raptors 92-86 Wednesday night in a very physical, ugly basketball game. Marc Gasol led the way for Memphis with a game high 26 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists.

Dave Joerger trotted out a new look lineup tonight, moving Courtney Lee to the bench, and starting Tony Allen and Jeff Green on the wings. Things started off well for the Grizzlies as they jumped out to a 12-6 lead in the first six minutes of the game. Zach Randolph had 6 of his 19 points in the first quarter, and Memphis looked like it might be able to hang a big number on the board early on. Toronto began packing the paint, and combined with poor Memphis shooting, the Grizzlies didn't score a single point in a span of 4:29. Fortunately for them, the Raptors were having just as much trouble scoring, and if it weren't for the shot of energy that is Luscious Lou Williams who scored six points in the final 1:49, they might have been held to single-digits in the opening period. Even with those points, however, the score was knotted up at 16 heading to the second quarter.

Both teams would trade small leads throughout the second, with Toronto getting a balanced attack from everyone on the floor, and the Grizzlies beginning to feed 33. The big fella had 13 points in the quarter to help ignite both the crowd and the Grizzlies' offense. Despite the offensive outburst, Memphis continued to struggle on the boards, giving up 6 offensive rebounds in the quarter, allowing Toronto to stay in the game. The Raptors cashed those in for 7 second-chance points, and only trailed by three, 41-38 at the break.

Memphis would see their lead taken away in the third quarter, largely due to their inability to defend without fouling. Both Marc Gasol and Jeff Green would pick up their third and fourth fouls, and be forced to sit after just 4:38 of play in the quarter. Kosta Koufos and Zach Randolph would help keep the Grizzlies afloat, combining for 13 of the team's 19 points in the quarter, and they trailed 61-60 heading into the final period of play.

Marc Gasol returned in the fourth quarter, and the Grizzlies' All-Star center immediately made his presence felt. Gasol scored or assisted on all of Memphis' first four buckets of the quarter, and rung up 10 points and 3 assists overall in the period. Not to be outdone, by Marc or Mike or anyone who has ever played for Memphis, Kyle Lowry scored 12 points of his own in the quarter, doing everything he could to keep his team close. But Toronto had no answer for the Grizzlies bigs, who were finally controlling the glass, and Memphis would eventually lock the game away, capped off by a Zach Randolph defensive rebound that saw him gather possession, run the floor, and go right at a Toronto defender, laying it up and in. It brought the crowd to its feet, and Tag Team to the loud speakers, finally signaling the Grizzlies win.

Game Notes from the Legend-wait for it-Diary

  1. The Jeff Green/Courtney Lee swap simply did not work tonight, for either player. Green had just six points on 2-6 shooting, and Courtney Lee managed only one point in 29 minutes of play. Neither player saw the shot selection they normally get or excel at, and the Grizzlies' bench, which already scores only 27 points per game (26th in the league) scored only 23 on the night.
  2. It doesn't show in the box score because both Gasol (9/16) and Randolph (8/14) had decently efficient nights, but the Raptors routinely had four guys in the paint within arms reach of each other, another side effect of having two wings who the opponent doesn't see as a threat to shoot or score from long range.
  3. Courtney Lee played 29 minutes off the bench, and Tony Allen and Jeff Green each had 26 minutes of playing time tonight. Much better balance, especially compared to the game against Dallas on Monday.
  4. Nice round of applause for James Johnson when he entered the game. Johnson played only eight minutes, none in the second half, and really had no effect at all on the game. Oh well, we'll always have January 2014.
  5. Though they adjusted at halftime, the Grizzlies were out-rebounded 50-45, and they gave up 21 offensive rebounds. Part of the reason for that was the Raptors' horrific shooting night (32% from the field and 18% from 3), but this has been a recurring theme all season with the Grizzlies, who are currently only +8 in rebound differential this year. That simply cannot happen on a team with three elite rebounders.
  6. Tonight was my first night being back in the forum all season (I know, I know...) and the Grindhouse was definitely going up on a Wednesday. So great to see all of my old friends still holding it down in section 110 and to be reminded of everything, from Rick Trotter to the Claw Crew, that makes games in Memphis so great.
  7. One of the in-game features tonight was the Tony Allen Challenge, where a grown man was challenged to recite the alphabet backwards in 30 seconds. He failed. Twice. And then when Joey offered him a moment of redemption by giving him an opportunity to just say the alphabet normally, he failed again. It was hilarious and painful, and I assume he must be from Nashville.
  8. Vince Carter played only five minutes tonight, missing both shots he took, and is shooting 24% from the floor in the month of January, and 16% from 3. :-/
  9. Again, the Zach Randolph coast-to-coast late in the fourth quarter was a thing of beauty. Someone please turn it into a GIF so we can enter it into both the Miss America and Mr. Universe pageants, and watch as it wins both, putting all other contestants to shame.

The win moves the Grizzlies to 30-12, and puts them back in sole possession of third place in the eternally tight Western Conference playoff race. They have two more games left on the home stand, both against inferior Eastern Conference teams, and they should be able to grab two more wins and figure out the kinks with their rotation. For now, I'm just grateful that they are relatively healthy, and can win games with the strength of their incredibly talented big men, especially on nights like tonight when their back court and wing players struggle to get it going.