The Toronto Raptors are just looking to control the controllable.
It's been the message from Raptors coach Nick Nurse for weeks now. He knows that some night his team is simply going to be out-talented. On others, it might come down to bad luck, shots not falling, or bad bounces. But the effort, execution, and focus, that has to be there every single night.
That lack of consistency is what's made this season so frustrating. There's no excuse for this group to be looking so sluggish with all its young players. And yet, here we are. For the second time in the last two weeks, the Raptors looked sluggish in the first half only to turn things around in the second and rally against an equally young and feisty Memphis Grizzlies team. This time, though, the hole was too big to overcome as the Raptors fell 98-91 at Scotiabank Arena.
The first half was as disappointing as the Raptors have had all year. Memphis gave Toronto a taste of its own medicine, gluing Dillon Brooks to Fred VanVleet and forcing the Raptors to make do without their offensive facilitator.
It was a plan that worked perfectly.
"I think maybe we got a little surprised by that," said Pascal Siakam. "We just got to make sure that we don’t try to go one-on-one, move the ball, and we’re just not in the right spots most of the time. Kind of caught us off guard. But in the second half, I think we got better."
The Raptors scored 39 points in the first half and shot 35% from the field. While VanVleet did shake loose for 13 of his 15 points before the break, most of those came when Brooks was forced to sit with early foul trouble.
"Fred’s an amazing player. He's [got] a go-getter attitude. He sticks with it even if he's not touching the ball, he can still find a way to score. He's a tough cover. I was tired today," Brooks said. "I was trying to figure out a way to limit his touches, trying to get out of his rhythm, and give us a chance to win."
After the break, though, Toronto came out running. Yuta Watanabe connected on a pair of above-the-break threes and Scottie Barnes ramped things up, stripping Brooks then showboating his way to a two-handed jam while staring down Steven Adams.
"At least he scored it. I guess I wouldn’t care if they bounced it off the top of their heads as long as it went in," Nurse said of Barnes' near-missed dunk. "If it doesn’t go in, we’re probably talking about a whole other situation."
But even as Pascal Siakam racked up buckets late, the Grizzlies remained just a step ahead thanks to their 17-point first-half lead.
Barnes Shows More Three-Point Range
Barnes connected on a trio of three-pointers Tuesday, making it his second straight game with multiple threes made. He tallied 19 points on 8-for-16 shooting and 3-for-6 shooting from behind the arc, but it wasn't all pretty.
"Listen, I think we’re seeing a lot of peaks and valleys all within the same game, almost every game now," Nurse said of Barnes who started the game -16 in the first quarter. "That’s what I’m noticing."
Bane Makes Raptors Pay
Desmond Bane certainly enacted revenge on Toronto for passing on him during the 2020 NBA Draft. He tallied 23 points on 8-for-16 shooting while Malachi Flynn, the man picked one spot ahead of him, was held to five points in 21 minutes.
Boucher Responds to DNP-CD
After a benching on Sunday night, had to wait until the second half to finally see playing time Tuesday. It wasn't a long stint, just seven minutes, but he looked like his old self again, running to the rim, and making the hustle plays that have been far too infrequent this season.
"Yeah Chris did OK today," Nurse said. "A couple of nice drives to the rim."
Up Next: Milwaukee Bucks
Giannis Antetokounmpo and company will come to town as the Raptors continue their homestand against the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. ET.