Pascal Siakam scored 26 points including two big three-pointers down the stretch Sunday and the Toronto Raptors clinched the second seed in the Eastern Conference with a 108-99 victory over Memphis.
For the fifth consecutive season the Raptors (50-19) have won at least 50 games, after going their first 20 seasons falling short of that mark. They improved to 4-1 in the NBA restart in the Walt Disney World bubble after the COVID-19 hiatus.
Norman Powell had 16 points, while Kyle Lowry finished with 15, Fred VanVleet chipped in with 14, and Serge Ibaka added 12 points and 12 rebounds.
Marc Gasol had 10 points and six boards in his first game against Memphis since the Raptors acquired him in a trade for beloved Raptor Jonas Valanciunas in February of 2019. The move paid off as Gasol, who’d spent parts of 11 seasons in Memphis, was a key part of Toronto’s NBA championship run.
Dillon Brooks of Mississauga, Ont., had 25 points to top the Grizzlies (33-38), who are trying desperately to hang onto a playoff spot in the jam-packed Western Conference. Vancouver-born Brandon Clarke had 16 points, while Valanciunas, who played nearly seven seasons for Toronto, had zero points but 10 rebounds.
The Raptors led by as many as 17 points before some sloppy play down the stretch allowed the Grizzlies back into the game. OG Anunoby committed Toronto’s 22nd turnover leading to a Brooks driving layup that was part of a Memphis 19-4 run, and when Allen floated in a jumper it was a five-point game with 4:10 left to play.
Brooks’ jumper sliced the difference to just three before Siakam replied with a pair of three-pointers, putting Toronto back up by seven. VanVleet got his fingers on an Anthony Tolliver shot, Lowry finished with a reverse layup at the other end to put Toronto up by nine — and the game out of reach — with 55 seconds to play.
Throwback bounce back game
Both teams wore throwback uniforms, conjuring images of Naismith Cup competitions between the Raptors and the Vancouver Grizzlies before the team moved south in 2001.
The Raptors’ seven-game win streak had ended abruptly with their worst loss of the season Friday against Boston (122-100).
“Well, hopefully we got rid of that one,” Nick Nurse, who was named a finalist Saturday for the NBA coach of the year, said pre-game. “We’d been playing with tremendous focus and intensity and results. So one where we got sidetracked a little bit.”
The Grizzlies poured in 21 points on threes in the first quarter, while Lowry’s three was Toronto’s only basket from long distance in the frame. Memphis led 25-20 to start the second.
The Raptors finally found their offensive rhythm in the second, connecting on seven three-pointers, and when Powell connected from beyond the arc with 2:11 left in the half, it capped a 28-11 Raptors run that had Toronto up by 11. Toronto took a 60-54 lead into the halftime break.
Gasol banked in a long three in the third quarter to put Toronto up by 15. A jump shot by Lowry sent the Raptors into the fourth up 88-71.
The Raptors face the league-leading Bucks on Monday in their first back-to-back games in the bubble. Nurse said he didn’t plan on limiting minutes Sunday ahead of the Bucks.
“My dad used to tell me when we were playing a doubleheader in baseball, we’re going to pitch our ace and pray for rain in the second game,” Nurse said. “So, we’re going to concentrate on this one then we’ll figure out the second one later.”