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Memphis Grizzlies vs. Toronto Raptors Game Preview

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The time for talk is over. Before the season’s longest road trip, can the Grizzlies start to right the ship?

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Toronto Raptors Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

WHO: Memphis Grizzlies (26-20, 15-9 home) vs. Toronto Raptors (28-17, 13-10 road)

WHEN: 7:00 PM CT

WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee

HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis

INJURY REPORT

MEMPHIS - Troy Daniels (Out, knee), Brandan Wright (Out, ankle)

SAN ANTONIO - DeMar DeRozan (Out, ankle)

PROJECTED STARTERS

MEMPHIS - Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Chandler Parsons, JaMychal Green, Marc Gasol

TORONTO - Kyle Lowry, Norman Powell, DeMarre Carroll, Jared Sullinger, Jonas Valanciunas


The worst thing that can come for a team after getting their tails kicked?

Extended time off.

The Memphis Grizzlies found this out the hard way the past few days. With three full days having passed since the Grizzlies lasted played a basketball game (a destruction at the hands of the Houston Rockets), media and fans alike have been asking the same question:

What is wrong with the Grizzlies?

Local media has written about it. Bloggers like me have written about it here. Radio shows and podcasts and tweets and status updates...everyone has a take on what ails a team that is 9-12 in their last 21 games.

You know what helps to silence those questions?

Winning.

Memphis has another chance to win tonight as they welcome an elite NBA team missing one of their best players into FedExForum. Grizzlies fans should be excited for the opportunity, right?

Not so fast. This past Saturday, Ryan Anderson didn’t play for Houston and it did not matter. Houston still obliterated the Grizzlies. Tonight, the Raptors still have All-Star caliber players like Kyle Lowry and a roster that together has posted the 2nd best record in the Eastern Conference so far this season. Memphis is not in a position to take anyone for granted, especially considering the Grizzlies have a six-game road trip, including two back-to-backs, on the horizon.

Finally, the talk can stop. Seeking solutions in game minutes can resume. How do the Grizzlies start to get back on the winning track?

It’s the defense, stupid

NBA: Preseason-Philadelphia 76ers at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

It starts there. It has always started there for this version of the Memphis Grizzlies. And any great team has to be able to play great defense. For a stretch of time the Grizzlies did just that, having the best defensive rating in the entire NBA. Now? Memphis has slid down to 4th, which doesn’t sound too bad. But over the last 20 games they are really struggling, which has led to their steady fall down the rankings.

Mike Conley cannot stay in front of guys. Marc Gasol is having issues communicating rotations and responsibilities. Tony Allen has been more “trick” than “treat” as of late. When those three players struggle defensively, the entire team has issues on both ends of the floor. In Memphis, offense feeds off of defense.

The return to success as a team starts there.

Crash the offensive glass

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Toronto Raptors Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

If Memphis hopes to have any success offensively, they have to be honest with themselves. The Grizzlies are not shooting masters. They are the absolute worst team in the entire NBA in shooting percentage at 42.6%. Unless they find a way to pull off some miraculous trade for an offensive mastermind, outside of the continued process that is Chandler Parsons there’s not tremendous improvement on the horizon.

So if you know you’re going to miss more shots than any other team in the NBA by percentage, why not focus on getting yourself more opportunities? These previews continue to focus on getting Memphis as many shots as possible, and in this game in particular those opportunities may come on the offensive glass. Toronto commits the fewest turnovers in the NBA at 11.9, but they give up 10.8 offensive rebounds per game, which is 20th in the Association.

Zach Randolph. Tony Allen. Paint-based offensive players. Crash the offensive glass and get the Grizzlies as many second chance points as possible.

The Prediction

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Toronto Raptors Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Head Coach David Fizdale and his coaches have the unenviable task of being the latest coaching staff to try to figure out the dog days blues for these Grizzlies. The “Core Four” of Memphis has always had these issues, from Hollins to Joerger, and now to Fizdale. Every year, they hit a stretch where they seem to forget who they are.

Tonight would be a good night for them to remember. They must commit to defending possession after possession with energy and focus. They must find ways to score that aren’t always conventional - free throw attempts, off of turnovers, and offensive rebounds - while mixing in the newfound love of the three that Fizdale has brought to Memphis.

In the end, it comes back to defense...and belief. Toronto will not lay down, despite being on the second night of a back to back after playing San Antonio pretty tough last night (they are 3-5 in such games so far this season). This will be a tough game for the Grizzlies. Norman Powell may not be the scorer that DeMar DeRozan is, but he has range and Memphis could overlook that, as they have in the past (cough OTTO PORTER cough).

Above all else, even more important than the opponent, Grizzlies have to believe they can get back to what they can control - being a team that plays together and for each other on each end of the floor.

Why not do it tonight? Sometimes, you gotta believe.

Memphis 103, Toronto 100

Follow @sbngrizzlies