March 2, 2012
Grizzlies take down Raptors
By Mike Ganter, QMI Agency
TORONTO - Dwane Casey sounded almost jealous when he described the Memphis Grizzlies.
“They are probably one of the mentally and physically toughest teams in the league in terms of the way they approach the game, the way they attack the paint,” Casey said about 61/2 hours before his Raptors took on those same Tennessee beasts.
Casey has made it crystal-clear since the day he took the job here in Toronto how much he values and admires a team that plays tough no-nonsense basketball. It’s the kind of team he wants here in Toronto.
In that regard, he had to like what he saw Friday night, even if the result left him wanting.
The Grizzlies came in full of piss and vinegar as is their custom but the Raptors had just as much of their own waiting to welcome the visitors.
When Mike Conley and OJ Mayo started to get a little cocky as the Grizz started to pull away early in the third quarter, James Johnson in definite message-sending mode, backed Rudy Gay down on the baseline and then turned in the paint and threw down a dunk that just about put Gay in the basket.
This one came down to the final seconds with Gay knocking down the go-ahead jumper with 27 seconds remaining to give the Grizzlies a one-point lead. The Raps went down and got an open jumper from their hottest shooter in Linas Kleiza.
Kleiza, who couldn’t miss earlier in the quarter, missed this one with 14 to go and then instead of wrapping up Tony Allen, who had leaked out for an uncontested layup, chose to shove him instead. Allen got the bucket and the foul.
When Allen missed the free throw, the Raps still had a chance down by three with 7.8 left.
A great call out of the timeout got Jose Calderon an attempt at the tying three but it hit back iron and bounced out giving the Grizzlies a
“Our guys scrapped, clawed and fought to put ourselves in a position to win the game,” Casey said. “They didn’t give in. They didn’t give up but we had a lead and didn’t protect it.”
The Raps were up by as many as seven three minutes into the final frame but a combination of some untimely turnovers allowed the Grizzlies to get back in it.
“It was just a lot of little things in closing out games and making those game-winning plays,” Casey said. “Somewhere the basketball gods are waiting for us to make those plays and be good to us because right now (we) are doing everything and I’ve seen a lot of NBA games, but we’re doing everything to win those games and it’s just not happening.”
Casey joked that it was getting to the point that he might just bring out a recorder, his post-game messages were getting so repetitive, but there is no getting away from the fact that this Raptors club is on the cusp of being rewarded for the work they are putting in.
It didn’t happen Friday night, but all indications say it’s not far away.
The game within the game
Tony Allen vs. DeMar DeRozan. Allen is without question one of the premiere defenders in the NBA. DeRozan is a young, developing scorer who is averaging 18.5 points a game in the month of February and was hitting on 21.8 on average over his past five.
“It all starts with Tony Allen, he’s one of those pitbulls that just sets the tone for their team on the defensive end,” Casey said Friday morning after shootaround.
Casey knew exactly what was in store for DeRozan.
“He’s going to try and get into him, be physical with him, make it tough on him and DeMar’s going to have to meet that challenge, as far as being physical, staying low, attacking his feet and not giving in to the physical play.”
Allen didn’t disappoint.
DeRozan only had the ball in his hands three or four time sin the first half. His only scoring play of the half came when Allen got hung up on a screen and DeRozan went strong to the hoop into Marc Gasol and finished. DeRozan finished the night with four points on 2-for-8 shooting.
As Casey suggested after the game, that stat line was more a nod to Allen, not necessarily a strike against DeRozan.
Marreese Speights is the newest member of the Grizzlies and therefore likely has the least rope with respect to his head coach Lionel Hollins. Speights saw just how little he had on Friday night when Hollins called a timeout and then walked out past halfcourt to lay into the newest Memphis player for some indiscretion or another. Speights took a long seat on the bench, came back but was quickly back riding the pine again. He did, however start the second half ... At the morning shootaround Ed Davis was asked about Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game. Davis said he was going for 100 of his own Friday night. He stopped short of guaranteeing it ... Casey used the expression: “Got his sea legs under him” to describe Linas Kleiza’s three-point barrage Wednesday in New Orleans. Safe to say those sea legs came with him on the flight north as Kleiza was once again on fire in the fourth quarter, finishing the night with 12 points, seven in the final frame.