Dis-Graceland, Raps fall to Grizzlies

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 12:04 PM ET

MEMPHIS -- If Elvis is really alive, this town is surely where he'd show up and if the Raptors have a playoff pulse, it should have been detected at the FedEx Forum last night.

But Toronto's free-fall continues, 78-70 to the Memphis Grizzlies, one of seven NBA teams with fewer wins than the Raptors' 19. In a terrible game no matter where your seat was, the Raptors held Memphis to 38.5% and lost because they shot a frozen 29.5%, the fourth worst game in team history.

The Raps continued limping into the all-star break with sixth consecutive defeats.

"We couldn't find one guy who could get on a roll," said Raptors coach Jay Triano, trying to get by without top scorer Chris Bosh for a second straight game. "It was one of those nights when it became contagious and everyone was missing. But we're ninth in the league in field-goal percentage and you say it all the way back in training camp, if you play good enough defence, you'll stay in the game."

Toronto erased a 13-point Grizzlies lead and was down by just three with a minute to play. But rookie O.J. Mayo had a strong fourth quarter, with a three-pointer and a rebound to end the game and was tied with Hakim Warrick with 16 points. Jose Calderon, 7-for-7 from the free-throw line, led all scorers with 18.

Toronto's Jason Kapono began 0-for-7, not connecting with his signature threes and the whole team began 0-for-10 outside the arc, before settling for 5-for-23, four by Kapono.

"I'll take him shooting that many, we need him," Triano insisted. "We need him to make them, but he's one of the best in the NBA if not the best. It was his three that kept the game close in the fourth (before it was negated by Mayo's)."

Jermaine O'Neal has had a couple of take-charge games in Bosh's absence, but was in foul trouble early last night, took a technical in the first half and a third foul just 19 seconds into the the third quarter. He ended with six points. The other big, Andrea Bargnani, shot 1-for-11.

Roko Ukic, lost in the point guard shuffle when Triano started spelling off Calderon with Anthony Parker, had a role in the rally.

"We kept looking at the scoreboard and the 29% and saw we were down by four or six," Parker said. "It seemed when J.K. hit a couple of threes that we were over the hump, but it was like quicksand, the harder you try, the more you (get stuck). It was a tough night all round."

A crowd of 11,498 added little to the atmosphere for the two playoff-challenged teams.

The Raptors' letdown wasn't as severe as in New Orleans the night before when they stood around slack-jawed at a flood of three pointers.

Last night started the countdown of the team's final 30 games and it has another winnable test in Minnesota on Tuesday. But with the San Antonio Spurs coming to the Air Canada Centre right before the all-star break, the prospects of going out on a high note aren't great.

This slump bookends a seven-game losing streak last month and two five-gamers, the first of which saw Triano replace Sam Mitchell.

As the Raptors grope for some consistency, the Grizzlies have won three games this month after a 1-13 January. Memphis interim coach Lionel Hollins has started up to three rookies in a game 31 times this season. Only four other clubs have gone that route the past 22 years and just one, the 1997-98 Cleveland Cavs with Cedric Henderson, Brevin Knight and Zydrunas Ilgauskas, managed a winning record.

Mayo came into last night's contest averaging 19.4 points a game, compared to last year's top rookie scorer Kevin Durant's 20.3, compared to last year's top rookie scorer Kevin Durant's 20.3.


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