The game began with tears from Vince Cater due to a warm welcome from Toronto Raptors fans and ended in the same way, as the Memphis Grizzlies lost for only the second time this season, falling 92-96 on the road while five players were ruled out from the game due to a stomach virus.
Tony Allen, Beno Udrih, Courtney Lee, Kosta Koufos and Jon Leuer couldn’t play, leaving the Grizzlies with just 10 active players and not all of them best suited for the job. It worked well for three quarters, but they were limited to just 17 points in the fourth quarter while the Raptors finally found a way to move around that excellent defense of theirs to improve their East-best record to 9-2, including 7-1 when playing at home.
Vince Carter played seven seasons with the Raptors before moving on to New Jersey and other teams. He didn’t leave in the nicest of ways, but a long time has passed, and he got the warmest welcome ever since leaving the team, making him teary in the pregame activities. Maybe knowing there’s not a lot left to his NBA career made it a lot more meaningful. Maybe it also affected his basketball, scoring just 7 points on 3-of-11 from the field coming off the bench.
Quincy Poindexter had to start at shooting guard, taking a lot away from the Grizzlies, not getting the offense of Lee nor the defense of Allen. Mike Conley had to play 42 minutes and Marc Gasol had 41, both of them clearly slowing down in the final quarter. Both of them, along with Zach Randolph, finished with double doubles, including an 18-18 game for Randolph, but they were limited to 43.8% from the field and losing the turnovers battle, always a bad sign on the road.
For the Raptors, it was especially DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry in the end. DeRozan scoring 21 points and Lowry playing some great basketball against a worn out Conley in the fourth quarter, finishing the game with 18 points and 7 assists. Lou Williams had a very good game with 13 points off the bench and Jonas Valanciunas and Amir Johnson survived playing against possibly the best big-man duo in the NBA.
Each season the Grizzlies don’t make it all the way the thought of maybe this team, built around the quartet of Conley, Allen, Gasol and Randolph is going to be broken up pretty soon. This year, once again, the same notion creeps up, although they’ve been looking as good as anyone if not better so far. That kind of expectation is new for the Raptors, who had all of last season changing their way of thinking and aspirations. Suddenly, being right up there with the Bulls and Cavaliers doesn’t seem so weird.