WHO: Memphis Grizzlies (20-13, 7-10 away) vs. Toronto Raptors (15-19. 5-10 road)
WHEN: 6:30 PM
WHERE: ScotiaBank Arena —— Toronto, Ontario, Canada
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN:Bally Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Danny Green (Out, knee), Kenneth Lofton Jr. (G-league, Two Way), Vince Williams Jr. (G-league, Two Way), Jake LaRavia (G-league, On Assignment), David Roddy (G-league, On Assignment)
Toronto: Fred Van Vleet (Questionable, Back), Precious Achiuwa (Questionable, Ankle), Christian Kook (Questionable, Knee), Danelo Banton (G-league, On Assignment), Ron Harper Jr. (G-league, Two Way), Otto Porter Jr. (Out, Foot)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks, Jaren Jackson Jr., Steven Adams
TORONTO: Fred Van Vleet, Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby Juancho Hernangomez
As the Memphis Grizzlies prepare to face-off against the Toronto Raptors on Thursday night, both teams could certainly use a win to quiet some questions that have become louder in recent days. For the Grizzlies, the questions center around how good they truly are. For the Raptors, the questions are on a bit larger scale of rather they should potentially embrace a rebuild.
The simple truth is that the answers to these questions will come in time. However, there is no doubt the intention of both teams in the present is to win. And though each team has struggled during the holiday season, there is play of talent on each roster to quickly turn momentum in a more positive direction moving forward.
In the case of the Grizzlies, it is simply finding someone to step up and support Ja Morant. While Morant has been his usual spectacular self as of late, the rest of the Grizzlies roster has struggled. Desmond Bane is slowly finding his groove after being out for six weeks. Jaren Jackson Jr. has struggled with fouls and finding his shot over the past few games. The roster in general has experienced some less than ideal results in terms of shooting overall. The hope is that they play more games near full health and with players in their regular roles that the results will improve.
The Raptors are 4-9 in the month of December. Overall, their offense has been near the bottom of the league for much of the season, ranking in the bottom five of the NBA in both FG% and 3P%. However, their defense has significantly regressed as well, as after ranking 11th in the NBA in DEF RTG in November, the Raptors are 25th in DEF RTG in December. Despite their struggles and a loss in their last game, Toronto has won two of their last three games.
For the Grizzlies, the key is simply finding an offensive rhythm that works and searching for the best shot possible on each possession. Let’s look at how the Grizzlies can find a few more avenues to success to get a needed win.
Find a Smidge of Success from Three
While this may be a bit dramatic, the Grizzlies simply need to experience a game where they make more threes than than the other team. As the recent road trip showed, the Grizzlies feature the worst three-point defense in the league among NBA teams on the road. Memphis also has not had much success consistently making their own shots in recent weeks. Fortunately, the Raptors are one of worst three point shooting teams in the league overall. On the season, Memphis ranks 18th in 3PM per game and 20th in 3P%. The Raptors are 28th and 29th in each of those categories.
This would be an excellent game for Desmond Bane to regain his form. Though the struggles from three continued in the Grizzlies last game against the Suns, Bane did some success early inside the arc. Many know how well Bane shot from beyond the arc on road games last year and before his injury. Putting together a few good shooting performances before the calander flips to 2023 will certainly do wonders for Bane and the Grizzlies.
Points in the Paint
Though the Grizzlies could certainly use a good shooting performance beyond the arc, the Raptors also present plenty of opportunity to find success at the rim. Toronto ranks last in the NBA in defending two-point shots and 27th in the NBA in FG% at the rim. The Grizzlies have had some decent success finding shots in the paint with Jaren Jackson Jr. back in the fold, and tonight is another opportunity to continue that trend. This matchup presents a great opportunity for Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clarke to have big nights like they did against Phoenix in the Grizzlies last win. If Memphis can get a few big nights from their front court, that could pay huge dividends.
The points made above are very simple to summarize: against a defense that should offer the opportunity frequently, the Grizzlies simply need to find the best shot possible and take it as much as they can. This is a game set up for both Bane and Jackson Jr. to have good offensive nights; both players need to take advantage of the opportunity. If they do, Memphis could produce a needed win.
With Fred Van Vleet potentially limited or not playing, the opportunity for the Grizzlies to take control early could be more of a reality than anticipated. With their roster at full health, this is the type of game the Grizzlies have the ability to control from start to finish. That is the exact goal this team likely has in mind, and if shots can fall early, that goal will hopefully become a reality.