WHERE: Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada
WHEN: 11:00 AM (!!!!) CT
HOW TO WATCH: Fox Sports Southeast/ 92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS- Mike Conley (Out, Left Heel), Chandler Parsons (Out, Right Knee Soreness), Tyreke Evans (Out, Incredible Trade Value), Deyonta Davis (Probable, Knee Soreness)
TORONTO- CJ Miles (Out, Right Knee Soreness)
MEMPHIS- Andrew Harrison, Wayne Selden Jr, Dillon Brooks, Jarell Martin, Marc Gasol
TORONTO- Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, OG Anunoby, Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas
Before you start tuning into the Super Bowl Pregame coverage, turn on Fox Sports Southeast and enjoy some Grizzlies basketball with your Sunday brunch. It is an early one as the Grizzlies are up in Canada to face the Toronto Raptors.
These two teams saw each other in early December where the Raptors came into FedExForum and took the win 116-107. The Grizzlies were led by Tyreke Evans in that one who, of course, will not be playing in Sunday’s matchup due to his trade value. DeMar DeRozan and Serge Ibaka were the leading scorers for the Raptors.
The Grizzlies will come in on a two-game losing streak, dropping those games in the final minute. The team is 5-5 in their last 10 which is one of their better 10-game records since the start of the season. The Raptors who are sitting at the 2-seed in the Eastern Conference will be continuing their homestand after dominating the Portland Trail Blazers Friday night. Toronto is 6-4 in their last 10 with a game on Tuesday with the Boston Celtics. Could the Grizzlies catch them looking ahead to that game?
These are the two things to note going into Sunday morning’s game:
Slowing Down The Raptors’ Offensive Production
The Raptors are the team that no one has really talked about this year. They are just quietly sitting as the two-seed in the East while Boston and Cleveland steal all the media attention.
Looking at team ratings, Toronto is 3rd in points per game averaging 111.6 each contest. They are also fourth in offensive rating in the league. This season DeMar DeRozan has finally worked on his three-point game and took that step back behind the arc which he would never do last year. He is averaging 24.6 points a game and is shooting 34.1% from three. This has ignited their offense to where it is now.
I would guess that Coach Bickerstaff would put Dillon Brooks on DeRozan as we have seen him switch between 2-guards and wings. However, they will have to scheme around OG Anunoby because Selden could not size up against him. Brooks struggles with 2-guards when they normally have a step on him, but what would be worse is Selden trying to guard DeRozan since he has not shown he can consistently defend on the perimeter yet.
Only bad thing is even if the Grizzlies slow down DeRozan, All-Star Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka can be enough offense to carry the team. Memphis will not be able to come out groggy in this one
The Young Grizzlies
This young core of Grizzlies has been impressive as of late. Selden has been the big scorer of the group in Evans absence, and even Andrew Harrison has put up two great games for him. It is a revolving door of who is going to step up for them. Marc Gasol is anchored to his veteran leadership and his 15-8-6 nights, but around that, anyone can be the secondary option for Memphis.
Against this Raptors team, and their Coach of the Year candidate Dwyane Casey, the young Grizzlies will have to have a great day to help Gasol. The athletic bigs like Jarell Martin and Ivan Rabb are where the Grizzlies can take this game. The X-factor will be the rebounding totals from each team. The Grizzlies are by no means a great rebounding team, but with more bodies down low to fight for rebounds, it could lead to extra possessions for Memphis.
My prediction for the game is not what the anti-tankers want to hear. I believe the Grizzlies will come out slow and fall behind early. The Raptors are coming off a 130-point game and will be rolling out of the gate.
Traveling and an early game just will not mix well with the Grizzlies. Plus, Toronto is a sneaky huge nightlife town that does not have the same reputation as New York and LA and the Grizzlies have been there the past two nights. If they have a long Saturday night, it could turn into a long Sunday morning game.
Spread: TOR -12. Because of that, I would take the Raptors minus the 12 points. That is a lot of points, but I think after a slow start by both teams, the Raptors will take off and control the game throughout.
Raptors- 112, Grizzlies- 95
All stats provided by NBA.com