January 20, 2015

With a new franchise record for victories and the Atlantic Division title both secured, the Toronto Raptors may not be thinking about a No. 1 seed.

Although the Raptors have a shot to catch Eastern Conference-leading Cleveland with eight games left, a slew of quality matchups await over the next week after they visit the struggling Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night.

Toronto (50-24) eclipsed its previous mark of 49 wins set last season with a 105-97 home victory over Atlanta on Wednesday, moving the club six games clear of the third-place Hawks in the East.

DeMar DeRozan scored 26 and Jonas Valanciunas added 19 points and nine rebounds to help Toronto become the final NBA franchise to reach 50 wins in a season.

This marks the fifth straight season under coach Dwane Casey in which the Raptors have increased their win total. Since 2011-12, they're the only team to do that under the same head coach. Toronto went 23-43 in Casey's lockout-shortened first season.

"We are not satisfied with just 50 wins," said Kyle Lowry, who had 17 points and 11 assists. "It's a great benchmark to get, but at the end of the day we still want to be playing as long as possible, as close as possible to the end of the whole NBA season."

Though it was just Toronto's second win in five games, the Cavaliers have also struggled recently to keep things tight atop the East. But the Raptors follow this game with a trip to San Antonio before sandwiching a visit to Atlanta with home games versus Charlotte and Indiana, which are both in the playoff mix.

Toronto then closes with a three-game slog through the basement of the East against New York, Philadelphia and Brooklyn.

It seems fitting that the Raptors' next matchup after reaching the 50-win plateau would come against the Grizzlies. The franchises are forever linked since entering the NBA together in 1995 as part of the league's venture into Canada.

While the Raptors have found a loving fan base in Toronto, the Grizzlies (41-34) left Vancouver after only six seasons and long ago reached 50 wins in 2003-04. They also accomplished the feat in each of the previous three seasons, and a host of injuries may be all that kept them from doing it again in 2015-16.

Center Marc Gasol was lost for the season to a broken foot in early February, and point guard Mike Conley has been out since March 7 with an Achilles injury and won't be back until the playoffs - if Memphis even gets there.

The Grizzlies are fifth in the West, but that position is tenuous after they dropped their fourth straight amid a 2-8 plummet with Wednesday's 109-105 home loss to Denver.

Simply falling to sixth place and facing Oklahoma City instead of the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round is unacceptable for coach Dave Joerger.

"We don't want to just get in the playoffs," Joerger said. "We want to get fifth, and we want to play the Clippers. This was not a step in the right direction."

A bright spot was Zach Randolph scoring 26 points after missing two games with a sprained ankle.

The Raptors can sweep the Grizzlies for the second time in three seasons. DeRozan scored 21 and Lowry added 18 in Toronto's 98-95 home win Feb. 21 in which it held Memphis to 3 of 20 from 3-point range.

The Grizzlies have gone 10-4 at home in the series since leaving Vancouver in 2001.

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