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Living on the Edge: Grizzlies vs Raptors Preview

Memphis looks to snap a four game losing streak while at the same time increase the chances to hold on to the five playoff spot with a win against Toronto.

Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Who: Memphis Grizzlies (41-34) vs Toronto Raptors (50-24)

Where: FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN

When: 7:00pm (CT), Friday April 1st

How to Watch: Fox Sports Southeast

How to Listen: ESPN 92.9FM Memphis

Injury report:

Memphis Grizzlies Toronto Raptors
P.J. Hairston (groin) - out
Brandan Wright (knee) - out
Mike Conley (foot) - out
Marc Gasol (foot) - out
Jordan Adams (knee) - out
DeMarre Carroll (knee) - out
Ronald Roberts (knee) - out

Memphis welcomes Toronto, the second best team in the Eastern Conference, to the FedExForum tonight after losing two of the last 10 games. Regardless of the slide, the Grizzlies still sit on the five spot of the Western Conference. However, the game difference with the teams coming behind has tightened to the extent that the participation in the playoffs for the sixth consecutive year is now at risk. The team, without Gasol and Conley, is free-falling and no game at this stage seems to be an easy one to win.

Making the playoffs should be the primary goal, followed up by holding on to the five spot

The Grizzlies face a difficult schedule with only seven games remaining in the season. Other than the Orlando Magic, they will meet either teams fighting for the playoffs or teams with a better record. Making the playoffs should be the primary goal, followed up by holding on to the five spot. The latter would presumably pull a Clippers-Grizzlies first round playoff series. The fan community and the organisation would rather have that matchup and avoid the stronger Golden State, San Antonio and Oklahoma.

They could have secured that five spot if they had not dropped a series of games during March against teams with a losing record. That includes Phoenix, Minnesota, Milwaukee, Lakers and Denver. None of those teams was fighting for the playoffs but Memphis did not manage to put those games under its belt. Blame the injuries, the adaptation of many newcomers, the lack of three point shooting ability etc. Whatever it is, the Grizzlies have found themselves in an awkward situation.

While impatiently waiting for Wright and Conley to resume basketball activities any time soon, Jordan Farmar has been signed for the remainder of the season. Moreover, Memphis has announced the addition of Bryce Cotton on a 10 day contract making the Grizzlies break the record for the most players on a roster during one season with 28 in total.

Is He A Grizzly?

The Memphis Grizzlies have played 27 different players this season— by far the most in the league. Trey finds out how closely the guys have been paying attention to the Grizz's roster in a new game called, "Is He A Grizzly?"

Posted by The Starters on Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Toronto Raptors

Memphis faces tonight a solid opponent that has reached the 50-win mark, a franchise record. The Raptors are currently two games behind Cleveland and will make a last push to get their first time ever Conference title. The All Star players Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan remain the main threat of a team that has dominated the Grizzlies in the last three seasons for a 4-1 overall in head-to-head matchups.

Toronto is a top five defence and third in three point percentage

The Raptors will not have their defensive specialist DeMarre Carroll for tonight's action due to a knee surgery but he is hopeful to return before the playoffs. Despite his absence, Toronto is a top five defence and third in three point percentage.

It is usually a well known fact that in order to beat a presumably better team, you need to excel in execution, minimise the number of mistakes and be aggressive. The Grizzlies did so in the outstanding wins against Cleveland and the Clippers last month. If they want to get the win against Toronto, they will have to play hard and efficient and avoid some recent mistakes.

March issues

Leaving apart the host of injuries, some of the problems hurting Memphis during March, where the team went 6-10, need to be addressed against Toronto and for the remaining games. They include both offensive and defensive issues as follows:

-Shooting the three ball. 30.3 shooting percentage for the worst team in the league in that facet during March. It is evident that the Grizzlies do not make use of the long ball a lot but if at least they could knock down the few ones they shoot...

-Defending the three ball. This has also been an issue for the Grizzlies all season long (and last season as well). In March, they ranked 23rd in the league with their opponents shooting over 37 per cent.

-Free throws. 75.8 %, good for 20th in the league during March. The lack of accuracy from the charity stripe was one of the keys against Denver last Wednesday. They used to lead the league at some point in the season.

-Turnovers. It has been a really bad month for a team which usually takes very good care of the ball. From leading the league to the 23rd position in March and now 7th overall.

-Slow starts. It has been a trend as of late. The Grizzlies are 0-5 in the last 10 games when losing the first quarter for a 2-5 overall during March. The Grizzlies never had a lead in the last three games.

-Points allowed. The Grizzlies allowed under 100 points before the All Star break and all the injuries happened. In March they have allowed over 105 points and 48.3% from the field to their opponents. Tightening things in defence and bringing back the Grit and Grind mentality seems to be a must on the way forward.

The rest of the way

The race for the playoffs in the Western Conference is heating up. The teams currently positioned between the sixth and the ninth are within three games. Memphis is 1.5 games ahead of Portland and 4,5 games ahead of Houston, the current ninth. The games left will determine the final playoff spots.

Memphis (41-34): vs Toronto, at Orlando, vs Chicago, at Dallas, vs Golden State, at Clippers, at Golden State. The schedule seems unfavourable and a descend in the standings is more than plausible with the current downward spiral. Toronto is fighting for positioning, Chicago and Dallas for the playoffs. It is hard to predict the outcome of the last three games against the Warriors (twice) and the Clippers. The former may need at least one victory to break the record of most wins in a regular season and the latter will probably have secured the fourth spot and opt to rest players.

Portland (40-36): vs Miami, at Golden State, at Sacramento, vs Oklahoma, vs Minnesota, vs Denver. The clear favourite for the fifth spot. The season comes to an end against three non-playoff teams and Oklahoma, that may have nothing to play for with the third spot secured.

Dallas (37-38): at Detroit, at Minnesota, vs Houston, vs Memphis, at Clippers, at Utah, vs San Antonio. To many, the strongest candidate to miss the playoffs. With Chandler Parsons out, the season will come down to life and death games against Houston, Memphis and Utah.

Utah (37-38): vs Minnesota, at Phoenix, vs San Antonio, vs Clippers, at Denver, vs Dallas, at Lakers. Four games left against teams with losing records is a plus. The meeting against Dallas may be the biggest game of the season.

Houston (37-39): vs Oklahoma, at Dallas, vs Phoenix, vs Lakers, at Minnesota, at SacramentoThe next two games will be key especially the clash against Dallas. Closing the season against four lottery teams increase the hopes to make the playoffs.

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