Grizzlies take on Raptors tonight
While some were surprised to see Memphis trade its leading scorer to the Toronto Raptors in the middle of last season, the Grizzlies didn't miss a beat without Rudy Gay.
The beginning of this season hasn't gone as smoothly.
The Grizzlies try to get on track and continue their recent domination of the Raptors, who are hoping to get a big performance from Gay in his first trip back to Memphis on Wednesday night.
After spending the first six-plus seasons of his career with Memphis (3-4), Gay, who was averaging 17.2 points, was shipped to Toronto on Jan. 30 in an effort to shed salary. The Grizzlies, though, thrived without him, riding what was the NBA's top defense all the way to the Western Conference finals.
Memphis hasn't proven nearly as stingy under first-year coach David Joerger, allowing 98.9 points per game - 9.6 more than last season. The Grizzlies have also had a rough time offensively, going 1-4 when scoring fewer than 100 points. Tayshaun Prince, who has had Gay's former starting spot since being acquired in that deal, is averaging a career-worst 6.3 points.
Memphis is coming off its lowest-scoring output of the season, falling 95-79 at unbeaten Indiana on Monday. Marc Gasol had 15 points but was one of just three players to score in double figures for the Grizzlies, who were limited to 41.3 percent shooting and outrebounded 45-32.
"They played harder, they were the aggressors, and when a team does that, they normally win," guard Tony Allen said. "We have to get back to what we do (and) continue to do it consistently."
The Grizzlies could have an easier time against the Raptors (3-5), who have dropped eight of nine in the series and eight of 10 in Memphis. The Grizzlies took the last matchup 88-82 at Toronto on Feb. 20, holding Gay to 13 points on 5-of-15 shooting.
Plus, the Raptors are 1-4 on the road, averaging just 90.6 points in regulation. Memphis has opened 3-1 at home while shooting 50.5 percent.
Gay is shooting a career-low 35.6 percent after going 11 for 37 from the field and scoring 29 points in Monday's 110-104 double-overtime loss at Houston. The Raptors trailed by as many as 17 before storming back, but they were held to 33.3 percent shooting.
"We fought with them obviously through two overtimes, and shots that we usually hit weren't falling," said Gay, whose 3-pointer with 0.9 seconds left tied the score at 95 in the first OT.
"You could say fatigue or a lot of different things, but they are a great team, and they played well. I just wish I would've hit the easy ones and maybe things would've worked out differently."
While Gay, Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas all recorded double-doubles, DeMar DeRozan scored 22 on 6-of-25 shooting. DeRozan has hit 25.7 percent from the field over the past four games.
Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley is shooting a career-high 50.5 percent while averaging a team-leading 18.9 points, 4.3 more than his career-best mark set last season.
Zach Randolph is averaging 21.1 points and 10.3 boards in his last nine meetings with Toronto.
Mike Conley vs. Kyle Lowry
A former Grizzly, Lowry is now in his eighth year in the NBA and second season with the Raptors. A decent but not great shooter, Lowry has scored double digit points in four of Toronto’s first five games while posting an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.00. While standing just 6’0 tall, Lowry is a good on-ball defender due to his quickness and a high level of intensity of the defensive end of the court.
Mike Conley’s continually improving offensive game will challenge Lowry’s defensive chops. Conley scored a season-high 26 points against the Pelicans, and leads the Grizzlies in scoring through five games at over 20 points per game. A 2012-13 NBA All-Defensive second team member, Conley led the league in steals a year ago and is averaging over 1.5 steals per game 2013-14.
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