March 17, 2012
Raptors bear downDig deep in OT to subdue Grizzlies
By RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency
MEMPHIS - Bullied on its own floor earlier in the month and losers of six straight to the Grizzlies, Toronto was not about to give in to hard-nosed Memphis again.
Not without a fight, anyways.
More like a bare-knuckle brawl.
In a game marred by 89 free-throw attempts, Rudy Gay hit another improbable shot — this one to force overtime.
Amir Johnson’s clutch overtime block and free throw appeared to seal a Toronto win, but Jerryd Bayless got called for a highly questionable foul, sending Mike Conley Jr. to the line for three. Conley missed his second to allow the Raptors to escape for a 114-110 win.
“It was like deja vu all over again,” DeMar DeRozan said of Gay’s near heroics. He has hit two similar shots to sink the Raptors at the ACC.
“But he didn’t get the win this time,” said James Johnson.
No, but he really couldn’t have come any closer.
A bit before Gay’s shot in the fourth, Andrea Bargnani had turned the ball over. Toronto has found umpteen ways to blow close games this season.
The refs even called a lane violation on Bayless’ second free throw in the final seconds of OT, causing head coach Dwane Casey to slump his head on the sideline table momentarily, pondering what else could possibly happen to his club.
“There were a lot of teachable moments,” he said afterward. But Conley carried the ball in another bizarre twist that preceded his final opportunity.
The 15-29 Raptors competed fiercely with the 24-18 Grizzlies in a slugfest of a matchup.
Bayless turned in a dominant performance, scoring 28 points, along with nine assists and six rebounds. Forbes notched a career-best 20, Bargnani added 20 and DeRozan 16.
“Maybe in Brooklyn somewhere, with money on the line,” Forbes replied when asked whether he’d ever been involved in a game as crazy as this one.
It was a good response to the last game against Memphis, a 102-99 loss. DeRozan scored only four points in that one and had trouble with Tony Allen’s aggressiveness.
This time, the fight level of the Raptors was superb. Instead of launching jumpers in response to Memphis’ hard-nosed defence, Toronto was in attack mode, constantly heading to the tin.
Toronto also made Memphis earn its points, sending the Grizzlies to the line a whopping 51 times — 21 in the fourth quarter alone. Luckily for the visitors, Memphis struggled at the stripe, missing 20 times.
Memphis got a lift from the return of all-star forward Zach Randolph, back for the first time since tearing his MCL on New Year’s Day who had 25 points. Marc Gasol scored 28, Gay 26.
It was also a nice answer game from the Raptors, who could not close a winnable game on Wednesday in Newark.
BATTLE WITHIN THE BATTLE
Casey said he didn’t say anything special to DeRozan about his chance for revenge on Allen.
“No I haven’t said anything to him … He’s got to take the challenge and not force it, let the game come to him. Be physically tough in those situations and meet the challenge,” Casey said beforehand. Casey added that Memphis is a good template for his club. “One of most physically and mentally tough teams in the league and that’s how I want our guys to play. That’s how you win in this league and they showed it last year. That’s what we’re trying to develop.” … Aaron Gray replaced Amir Johnson in the starting lineup in order to contend with the bulk of Gasol.
FORBES COMES THROUGH
Jose Calderon could return as early as Saturday in Charlotte, but the odds of that are slim since he is still experiencing soreness in his ankle. The team is targeting a return date next week. With Calderon out, backup point guard duties fell to Forbes, who played three positions on the night. Casey said he was not happy with Forbes’ defensive effort against Cleveland and New Jersey. “The biggest mistake he made was letting guys blow by him. That’s where he needs to be better,” said the coach. Forbes did a better job of defending and also provided a welcome spark on offence, chipping in 10 points in the first half alone, a precursor to his late heroics.
The team was taking Thursday’s trade of Leandro Barbosa to Indiana well. Though Barbosa was extremely well-liked by his teammates, they understood it was one of those things.
“We talked this morning about it. We’re going to miss him, he’s the fabric of our team, what we want to be about, selfless, about winning, he loved Toronto, but the business of basketball said this was a move we had to make for our organization,” Casey said.
“Everybody understands. They have to. I told them we have to go on, we have to move on. It was one of those trades that is good for everybody. It was good for Leandro and it was good for us.” … Bayless continues to provide strong defence from the point guard spot. He is more physical with opponents than Jose Calderon and has better lateral quickness.