What a challenge for Ja. Going toe to toe with one of the league’s best point guards in Kyle Lowry. Not only is Lowry a lock down defender, but he has also stepped up his offensive game in the absence of Leonard this season. Yes, Morant is undeniably the rookie of the year, but Lowry has done more than enough to earn a spot on one of the all-nba teams this season.
If there is one thing that Morant has which Lowry cannot match it’s speed. Quickness and speed would be the key to Ja scoring prolifically in Memphis’ fifth bubble match-up.
The Grizzlies were looking to keep the momentum going which they built against the Thunder in a terrific defensive performance. Toronto presents a more difficult challenge, having six or seven players able to consistently create their own shot, compared to OKC’s two. The key would be organisation and and communication on defence.
Hanging With The Raptors
The game started poorly with Memphis turning the ball over on its first two possessions. Getting to the rim early was a problem. The Raptors’ defenders would swipe at the ball and take it away every time the Grizzlies dribbled above their knees. This made no difference as Toronto missed multiple open shot and Memphis lead by four at the first timeout.
Dillon Brooks’ Poor Decision Making
Brooks had taken five shots with four minutes left in the quarter and missed all five. Four of those were exactly the same shot. They were off balance high-arcing floaters over defenders while moving to his right. None of them came even close to going down. They were ridiculous shots. Shots you should not be taking unless your name is Kobe or Michael. Shots Dillon Brooks certainly shouldn’t be taking. Absolutely dumb shots that coach Jenkins needs to tell him to stop taking as soon as possible.
Contrary to Brooks, Allen made smart decisions and took good shots which resulted in him scoring nine points before the end of the first. He was 3-5 from beyond the arc in the first frame.
Valanciunas was a menace all game, haunting the team who traded him late in last year’s season. He wrecked havoc on the boards on both ends of the floor outmatching Ibaka and Gasol and consistently creating second chance opportunities.
Unfortunately the Raptors got hot from downtown late in the half and there was nothing Memphis could do. The grizzlies were closing out and contesting shots to no avail. With clutch shooting and funky zone defence Toronto took a six point lead into the locker room.
Guards Run Wild
Toronto’s shooting streak continued into the second half this time on the fast break. They hit three after three on transition opportunities after bad Memphis turnovers. They refused to let the Grizzlies back into the game and quickly extended the lead to 15.
It was carelessness that defined the third quarter. While Toronto kept things simple and efficient, Memphis got careless with the ball. They tried to wire passes into crowds and the Raptors easily deflected them to spring transition opportunities.
Toronto’s success came by exploiting the Grizzlies’ weaknesses. Nurse identified that Memphis would have trouble defending their guards and called their numbers from the jump. Van Vleet and Lowry ran wild knowing full well that Memphis couldn’t neutralise them.
Toronto took their foot off the gas late in the fourth and let the contest get tighter than it ever should have been. The Morant and Clarke pick and roll proved lethal and got Memphis back in the game. That is until Siakam responded with two huge threes in a row.
Ultimately it was the Raptors who made the most of their opportunities while Memphis failed to do the same. Toronto committed 25 turnovers in the game which the Grizzlies had trouble turning into points.