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TOR Valanciunas and Vasquez

Raptors Firepower Proves Too Much For Grizzlies Defense

The Memphis Grizzlies and the Toronto Raptors were allowing the third and fourth fewest points in the NBA respectively heading into Friday night’s contest at the Air Canada Centre, but in the end, it was the Raptors firepower over the final 6 minutes that proved to be too much for their opponent to handle. Toronto went on a 19-6 run to close out a 99-86 victory in front of an enthusiastic home crowd.

As expected, the game was hotly contested from the start with neither team shooting over 40 percent in the first quarter.  Zach Randolph carried the load for the Grizzlies with 10 points matched shot for shot by Jonas Valanciunas who also had 10 points.  The Grizzlies holding the early 24-19 first quarter lead only because of a 13-8 advantage on the boards.

The Raptors adjusted and fought back in the second quarter lead by a dozen points from Greivis Vasquez and some better defense on Randolph.  Head Coach Dwane Casey substituted in Chuck Hayes for the final 2.5 minutes of the half to disrupt the Grizzlies star power forward and the veteran did his job.  Toronto went on a 9-4 run to close out the first half with a 47-44 lead.

Both teams struggled to find shots in the third quarter, but they each hit over 60 percent of their attempts and Toronto added one more point to their lead courtesy of going 3-4 from the free throw instead of 2-5 like the Grizzlies.  The big news for the Raptors was they had 27 wins and 2 losses when leading at the end of the third quarter this season, but the Grizzlies were about to test that number.

The Grizzlies wiped out the Raptors lead and tied this game less than a minute and a half into the fourth quarter.  They even briefly held a 1 point lead with 7:25 left in the game and this game was tied at 80 with 6:05 remaining, but everything was about to fall apart for the Grizzlies from there.

Vasquez hit an uncontested three-pointer to give the Raptors the lead and then he stole a Nick Calathes pass and ran it in for a layup.  The Raptors, up 85-80, continue the run to 12-0 before surrendering another bucket and this game was in the bag.  A game that was hotly contested for 3.5 quarters between 2 evenly matched teams all went wrong for the Grizzlies at the end.

“They executed,” Mike Conley said.  “They made the right plays down the stretch.  We weren’t playing very smart basketball.”

“That basically was the game tonight,” Tony Allen said.  “I think those guys did a good job spreading us out, penetrating off those pick-and-rolls and leaving shooters on the perimeter to force us to stay out there.  A lot of times Valanciunas got a lay in to get them momentum going into each quarter. Personally I just have to be better down the stretch.  I kind of put this one on me, simply because I made bonehead mistakes down the stretch.”

Jonas Valanciunas missed his career-high in points by 1 as he led all scorers with 23 points and 9 rebounds.  Valanciunas really wanted that last rebound for the double-double.  Kyle Lowry played well all game at both ends of the court as he recorded 22 points, 12 assists and 7 boards.  Vasquez ended up with 17 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists and was a momentum changer for the Raptors in both halves.

Terence Ross left after playing 20 minutes as it appeared he injured his ankle, but after the game, both Ross and Casey insisted this was just a tweak and nothing serious.

DeMar DeRozan, who was stifled by the aggressive Grizzlies defense through 3 quarters scored 10 fourth quarter points to finish with 16 points.

“JV (Valanciunas), they were guarding with his guy and he got to his sweet spot and Greivis (Vasquez) found him and that was because they were sending 2 guys at DeMar, 2 guys at Kyle, any of our perimeter guys,” Casey explained.  “They were blitzing them basically on pin downs and taking them out and our guys did a good job of finding JV rolling to the bucket and basically standing under the basket wide open.”

Valanciunas almost outscored Randolph and Gasol combined, but the biggest difference in the game was from the three-point line, Raptors shooting 9-17 from deep compared to just 2-8 for the Grizzlies.  Both teams made 18 free throws and Toronto held the 36-35 rebounding advantage.

Randolph had 16 points and 8 rebounds, but only 4 points after half.  Marc Gasol was held under 10 points and Mike Conley, who burned the Raptors for 29 points in November, was held to just 10 points.

With the win, the Raptors move to 10 games above .500 at 37-27 and improve their record against the Western Conference to 14-12.  The Raptors play the Suns next at the Air Canada Centre on Sunday.

The Grizzlies fall to eighth place in the West at 38-27, but get to face the 0 for 19 76ers in Philadelphia on Saturday.


Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.


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“I have always been a defensive-minded player and I think the more I got to play the more it showed,” Ross said.  “Once you get confidence, you play at a different level, so I try to maintain my confidence, go out a play with the opportunity (Casey) is providing me.”