by Liaudwin Seaberry Jr. —
The Memphis Grizzlies were playing like a team with a win clearly in sight. The offense flowed seamlessly as the defense played lights-out. All of that was before the dogged pursuit of Toronto’s Raptors ran them off the road to victory.
A tale of two halves added up to a 13-point loss (126-113) for the Grizzlies (9-10) and disappointment for their fans at FedExForum on Wednesday night.
At the halftime break, the Grizzlies enjoyed a 12-point (71-59) advantage, with point guard Ja Morant scoring 14 of his 23 points. Fellow Grizzlies Jaren Jackson Jr., Desmond Bane and Brandon Clarke each put in 13 points to help build the lead over the Raptors (9-10).
Toronto guards Gary Trent Jr. and Fred VanVleet clearly were not fazed. The tandem caught fire in the second half, putting in bucket after bucket and preventing the Grizzlies from gaining momentum. The duo finished with 50 total points.
Former Memphis Tiger Precious Achiuwa scored 17 points playing forward for the Raptors. He knocked down three shots from distance in a difference-maker performance. Fellow post players Scottie Barnes and Pascal Siakam produced 17 points apiece as Toronto shot 52 percent from the floor and nailed 14 three-pointers.
With the sting of the second-half collapse still fresh, Memphis head coach Taylor Jenkins said, “We over-dribbled the ball and didn’t trust the pass. They made us pay for it. Too many turnovers (14), playing (offense) into crowds. That fueled their offense.”
After shooting 60 percent from the field in the first half, Memphis only shot 41 percent the rest of the way. Bane, who scored 20 points, acknowledged that the team’s first-half chemistry simply did not carry over.
“I think they made some tough shots in the game and that we got away from our game, especially defensively,” he said.
Headed into the fourth quarter, Memphis’ 12-point halftime lead had dwindled to a single point (92-9l). The game took on a see-saw feel with several key baskets from Toronto’s Trent and the Grizzlies’ Brooks. But at the end, the Grizzlies lacked the defense needed to shut down the offensive attack of Toronto late.
Brooks spoke to the need for the Grizzlies to secure close games.
“We are going to have to figure it out,” he said. “We had a great start. That is not usually how it goes with this season. One of the first times we played with a lead. We have to find a way to bear down and get stops; and find a way to make shots.”
The Grizzlies host Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks on Friday (Nov 26). Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.