The Atlantic Division leading Toronto Raptors are ready for a battle with the red hot Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night. The Grizzlies are 25-9 in 2014 and fighting for their playoff lives, but the Raptors are 22-12 in this calendar year and only 3 games ahead of Brooklyn for the division lead. This is a big game for both teams.
Very early in the season, the Raptors went into Memphis and laid a 103-87 beating on the Grizzlies behind 62 points from their big 3 of Rudy Gay, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. However, Gay is gone and the Raptors barely resemble that team anymore, so just wipe the slate clean. Both of these teams have been playing very well since the middle of December and are 4-1 over their past 5 games with the only loss going to the Nets in both cases. It’s hot vs. hot.
The Grizzlies and the Raptors are allowing the third and fourth fewest points in the NBA respectively. Toronto has the eighth best opponents’ field goal percentage and the Grizzlies the ninth best. The Grizzlies enjoy a bigger rebounds per game differential than Toronto, but both teams rebound well and where Memphis is more effective in the paint, the Raptors are the much better three-point shooting team, so their effective field goal percentages are almost identical.
Toronto is the better scoring team, averaging over 100 points per game and outscoring their opponents by +3.3 points on the season. The Grizzlies play slower, score less and only hold a +1.1 point scoring differential over their opponents. Memphis’ Achilles heel has been their inability to get buckets at times, but of course they have put up 109 points or more in 4 of their past 7 games.
Offensively, the matchup between Lowry and Mike Conley will be a key to the game. Defensively, will Tony Allen be able to control DeRozan and will Amir Johnson be able to handle Zach Randolph.
Marc Gasol will do his thing for the Grizzlies and Courtney Lee will be a familiar Eastern Conference opponent on a Western Conference roster for the Raptors. Terrence Ross will be a wild card and another three point threat on the wing the Grizzlies might have trouble with while John Salmons will be a familiar Western Conference veteran now coming at them from a new team.
They are well matched and have almost identical winning percentages against Western Conference teams. Two very good defensive-minded clubs playing extremely well, one strong in the post on offense and the other more effective from the perimeter, all put together, it should make for a great game to watch.
Behind The Scenes – Covering The Toronto Raptors
Local celebrity interviewer Vernon Chang reached out to Pro Bball Report’s Stephen Brotherston to be his initial guest on the TorontoPath live video podcast’s inaugural show to talk Raptors basketball. Chang has interviewed many Raptors players at charity events over the years, but what fascinates this superfan the most is what happens behind the scenes and in the locker rooms before and after the games.