Randolph, Grizzlies down Raptors

Memphis Grizzlies' Zach Randolph grabs a rebound away from Toronto Raptors' Amir Johnson....

Memphis Grizzlies' Zach Randolph grabs a rebound away from Toronto Raptors' Amir Johnson. (REUTERS/Nikki Boertman)

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:55 PM ET

MEMPHIS — Undermanned is one thing, but undermanned and still handing out gifts like it were Christmas is quite another.

That was your Raptors Monday night as they hung in for about a quarter and a half and then fell apart handing the Grizzlies the keys to the comeback via the turnover in a 96-85 loss.

There were 25 of them in total, leading to 28 points, one than the previous season high they set right before the holiday break in a loss to Detroit, when at least they could claim to be moved by the Christmas spirit.

But without Andrea Bargnani and relying on a three-person big man rotation of Amir Johnson — still dealing with a sore back and a non-factor offensively — little used Joey Dorsey and rookie Ed Davis, the Raptors were up against it before the ball was even tipped.

For about 18 minutes of the game, it appeared the Grizzlies, who were coming off big road win in Indianapolis, might play down to their injury-plagued competition.

Then the turnover barrage began and the Grizzlies got a little life.

Linas Kleiza, who has been logging huge minutes of late as Jay Triano’s alternatives have been all but erased by injury, almost single-handedly kept the Raps in this one in the early going, hitting for 13 points in those first dozen and a half minutes.

Unfortunately, there was little else in the way of consistent offence from anyone. Once Kleiza headed to the bench for the inevitable rest, the turnover barrage began and the momentum switched for good.

Johnson, who sat out half of that pre-Christmas Detroit game with back spasms, was clearly not back to his regular form. Fans may wonder why he was in the game for as long as he was without contributing a single point to the cause.

The answer again was the alternative. Sit Johnson down and you have to go with a very raw Solomon Alabi.

Give Johnson, Davis and Dorsey credit for the job they did keeping Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol in check. That duo torched the more experienced starting duo of Chris Bosh and Bargnani in this building last season to the tune of 49 points and 14 rebounds. On Monday night, they were held to 30 and 13 combined.

In fact, no one, or even two, Grizzlies torched the Raptors on this night. It was the combination of Rudy Gay’s 18, Randolph’s team-high 21 and the 14 off the bench provided by former Celtic Tony Allen that did the damage.

Point guard Mike Conley, playing with what looked like a sparring mitt on his right hand protecting a cut between his pinky and ring finger that was split for six stitches a night earlier in Indianapolis, chipped in with 12 of his own and six assists.

By halftime, the Raptors had already had committed 14 turnovers.

The Grizz didn’t do a much better job taking care of the ball but limited their belated Christmas gifts to the Raptors to just 11 in the first 24 minutes and 21 in all leading to 18 Toronto points.

At one point in the first quarter, the Raptors actually had a 12-point lead, but fell apart in the second quarter turning an eight-point lead into a four-point deficit by halftime.

The Raptors also failed to take advantage when given their own freebies from the charity stripe. From the free-throw line the Raptors were a disappointing 5-for-14.

mike.ganter@sunmedia.ca


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