MEMPHIS — On the second night of back-to-back road games, Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey was happy his team trailed the Memphis Grizzlies, the NBA’s hottest team, by just a point at halftime Wednesday night at the FedExForum.
Still, Casey knew the storm was approaching.
“I told our guys they (the Grizzlies) were going to turn up the juice, and we had to meet their toughness with our toughness,” Casey said.
That sounded good in theory, but it didn’t happen. The Grizzles began the second half with an 11-1 run, made six steals and scored 22 of their 33 third-quarter points in the paint as they blasted the Raptors 103-82.
Even hard-to-please Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins liked what he saw.
“Our defense was overwhelming in the third quarter,” said Hollins, whose team improved to 11-2. “Our defense energized our offense. We had 23 deflections. We had 12 three-times-in-a-row stops, we took two charges and we held them to 30.6 percent shooting in the second half after they shot 47.4 percent the first half.”
The sticky, chaotic Grizzlies defense led to balanced scoring for the winners, with five players finishing in double figures. Reserve forward Marreese Speights topped Memphis with 18 points, and he added 12 rebounds.
The inside duo of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol scored 17 each for Memphis, with Randolph grabbing 13 rebounds for his 12th double-double of the season. Point guard Mike Conley, returning to action after missing Monday’s win over the Cleveland Cavaliers because of the flu, hit four of five 3-pointers and finished with 16 points. Forward Rudy Gay added 14.
The Raptors (3-13) got a team-high 16 points from DeMar DeRozan. Jose Calderon and Kyle Lowry added 12 each for Toronto.
The visitors, even without starting center Andrea Bargnani, who sat out with a sore ankle, played with plenty of spunk in the first half. However, the game was over in the third quarter once the Grizzlies played to their strengths.
“We got the ball inside to Marc and Zach early (in the second half), and (the Raptors) didn’t have an answer for it,” Conley said. “Then we got stops defensively. Tony (Allen) made some plays for us. When one guy gets going, it gets contagious. We get out in transition, and it’s a highlight reel. … Rudy’s dunking. Tony’s dunking.”
As in Monday’s win over the Cavaliers, the Grizzlies came out sharp in the game’s first five minutes against the young Raptors, hitting their six of their first seven shots.
At that point, Memphis lost focus. Instead of taking simple, open shots, the Grizzlies often overpassed, leading to contested shots in traffic. After their hot shooting in the game’s opening minutes, Memphis missed 11 of its next 14 shots and trailed 27-24 after the first quarter.
There wasn’t much separation in the second period, either.
The Raptors did an excellent job of pushing Gasol and Randolph from the post area. It’s why Toronto, despite giving up five Memphis 3-pointers, was able to stay with the Grizzlies the entire half and trailed 48-47 at the halftime before being erased in the third quarter.
“We have to understand a team is trying to jump on us at the start of each half, and we’ve got to match that intensity,” said DeRozan, who scored eight of the Raptors’ 21 points in the final period. “We’ve got to be sick and tired of losing in the second half.”
NOTES: Hollins was happy to have Conley back in the starting lineup. Without Conley, Memphis stumbled around offensively for the first three quarters in Monday’s win over the Cavs. “People don’t want to give Mike his due for what he brings to our team,” Hollins said. “We’re limited offensively without him, because he gets people to where they should be in our offense. Mike is a big part of our pick-and-roll offense. We couldn’t do that without him (against the Cavs), so basically we were throwing the ball in the post and hoping for the best.” … The 21-point win represented the Grizzlies’ largest victory margin this season. … Memphis tied a team season high with 28 assists. … Raptors forward Ed Davis scored 10 points in his first start of the season.