Inside Look: Grizzlies at Raptors

Memphis will play in Toronto on Saturday night after falling in TD Garden to the Celtics on Friday. Memphis has lost 4 straight and 9 of their last 10.

Mike Conley leads the Grizzlies in scoring, averaging 20 points per game along with 3.3 rebounds and 6.1 assists. He has been the main constant for Memphis this season, especially with the struggles that Marc Gasol has been experiencing in the last 20 games, where he has not played at the All-Star level he started the season out at.

Rookie forward Jaren Jackson Jr. (13p/4r) presents a mismatch for most defenses when he is able to stay in the game. He is currently averaging almost 4 fouls per contest.

Off the bench, forward JaMychal Green (10p/6r), and guard Shelvin Mack (8p/3a) both log 23 minutes per game and are trusted veterans for coach J.B. Bickerstaff.

The last time these two teams met was earlier this season in Memphis, where Toronto emerged victorious despite Kawhi Leonard being held to under 20 points.

For the Raptors, OG Ananoby (personal), and Jonas Valanciunas (thumb), and Kawhi Leonard (rest) will all be out on Satuday.

To help us get an insider’s perspective on the matchup, I reached out to the good folks at Raptors Rapture to help answer this week’s burning questions.

What role players have emerged this season and made an impact?

Pascal Siakam is the obvious candidate here. He was maybe the 8th best player on the team last season? Now he’s the undisputed 3rd best player and a real candidate for Most Improved Player of the Year.

What has to happen this year for the Kawhi-DeRozan trade to be a success? Also how will it impact the franchise if it ends up being a one year rental situation?

The franchise’s first ever trip to the NBA finals would be a success in my opinion. Demanding they beat the Golden State Warriors is a little much, but a finals appearance is a realistic goal for this team. If he leaves, it probably starts a mini-rebuild. It won’t be a Hinkie Process-level of scorched earth behind, but moving guys like Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka to contending teams makes more sense.

How does the fan base feel about how Nick Nurse and his coaching this season?

Nurse has been very good this season. His decision to move Ibaka to center has really changed Serge as a player. His more modern defensive schemes have been a welcome sign. Some of his rotations have been questionable early on. However, his quotes in press conferences note that he is trying everything during the regular season in order to prepare the team for the postseason. I’d give him a B+.

Similar to last year, the Raptors are elite on both sides of the ball. Will this be the year where they can make it over the hump and make it to the NBA Finals as the representative from the East?

They’re the favorite right now. Considering the injuries they’ve dealt with and the schedule they’ve faced (they have the league’s easiest schedule remaining), to be .5 games behind Milwaukee is a small miracle. With that being said, being the favorite doesn’t mean your chances of making the finals are high or even above 50%. I’d break it down as Toronto 35%, Boston 25%, Milwaukee 25%, Philly 10%, Indiana/wait what the hell happened? 5%.

MORE: Memphis Grizzlies Week 14 Preview

MORE: Inside Look: Grizzlies at Celtics

With the Memphis match up, are there any key areas that we should focus on that will decide the game?

What I’m assuming is the case with a lot of Memphis opponents, the pace of the game will be very important. Toronto’s biggest weakness is their half-court offense can grow stagnant at times. If they run, that problem tends to go away. The Grizzlies will want to slow the game down, Toronto can’t let that happen


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