It has been a tough three weeks for the Memphis Grizzlies, who have lost seven of their last eight games while playing through injuries.
The Grizzlies lost Steven Adams to a sprained PCL for at least a month after a West Coast swing to close out January. They also played without Desmond Bane (knee) and John Konchar (concussion) for multiple games during the three-week swoon, affecting the team’s playing rotation.
And when the Toronto Raptors visit Memphis on Sunday evening, the Grizzlies will be without starter Dillon Brooks, who was suspended for the game for striking Cleveland’s Donovan Mitchell during an altercation in a 128-113 road loss to the Cavaliers on Thursday.
“Anything, when it comes to negative about the Grizzlies, we normally, you know, get the punishment,” Memphis star Ja Morant said. “It ain’t the same. They (the NBA) hate us.”
With Adams and Brooks out, a combined 23.9 points, 14.9 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game will be missing from Memphis’ starting lineup. Adams’ absence leaves the Grizzlies without the best offensive rebounder in the league.
The good news for Memphis entering its matchup with Toronto is the return of a healthy Bane and the outstanding play of Morant, who recently was named a reserve on the Western Conference All-Star team.
Morant is averaging 27.3 points, 8.3 assists and 5.8 rebounds, while Bane is averaging 21.6 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.0 assists as the duo comprises one of the best backcourts in the NBA.
Memphis’ Jaren Jackson Jr., a Western Conference All-Star reserve, did not play in the loss to Cleveland due to a thigh bruise that occurred during a 122-112 home loss to Portland on Wednesday. That defeat snapped the Grizzlies eight-game home winning streak.
Jackson (16.5 points, 6.7 rebounds) is expected to return against the Raptors. His presence, especially on defense for Memphis with 3.26 blocks per game, is huge with Adams, and now Brooks, out.
Toronto is coming off a 117-111 road win over the Houston Rockets on Friday behind 32 points from Fred VanFleet, 29 from Gary Trent Jr. and 23 from Pascal Siakam.
Sunday’s game against the Grizzlies will conclude a seven-game road trip for the Raptors, who are 3-3 before entering the final stop. They return home to take on the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday.
VanFleet, who had his second career triple-double in a 131-128 loss against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday, has scored 24 points or more in his last three games. He’s averaging 19.8 points and 6.5 assists this season.
“He looks really good,” Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said. “He’s playing hard. He looks fast and athletic. He’s shooting the ball with tremendous confidence. He’s been really good on defense, too.”
Trent is averaging 18.9 points and is the team-leader in steals (78). Siakam is the Raptors leading scorer (24.8 points) and is hot on the heels of VanFleet for the team lead in assists per game (6.2).
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