The Toronto Raptors went into the All-Star break feeling good about the way they've been playing. The Memphis Grizzlies had the opposite state of mind, and their first performance after a week off didn't provide any sort of relief.
The Raptors look to match a single-season franchise record with a ninth consecutive home victory Wednesday night with a visit from the reeling Grizzlies, whose playoff chances are fading after five straight losses.
Toronto (29-23) was six games below .500 and out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture in mid-December, but since Dec. 18 its 18-6 record is the second-best in the NBA.
The Raptors were especially hot heading into the All-Star break, winning eight of nine with Chris Bosh leading the way as usual. The five-time All-Star has averaged 27.0 points and 12.7 rebounds in Toronto's last 10 games, and he had 23 and 12 in a 104-93 win over Philadelphia last Wednesday.
Toronto has a three-game lead for the East's fifth seed and is within 4 1/2 games of Atlantic Division-leading Boston.
"After you come back from the All-Star game, it's business,'' said Bosh, who had 23 points and 10 boards off the bench in Sunday's game in Dallas, his hometown. "We only have (30) games left. It's good to be rolling and have some kind of momentum and confidence going into the last part of the season because that's when the picture starts looking a little bit clearer for the playoffs. We're trying to get home court."
Bosh had 37 points and 12 boards when Toronto visited Memphis on Oct. 30, but the Grizzlies (26-26) used a 39-point fourth quarter to take a 115-107 win.
That was Memphis' only victory in its first nine games, but coach Lionel Hollins' club bounced back. The Grizzlies went 24-11 over their next 35 to become a serious contender to crack the West's top eight for the first time since 2005-06.
Now, a loss to Toronto will send them to another 1-8 stretch. Memphis entered the All-Star break having lost four straight and six of seven, then fell 109-95 at home against Phoenix on Tuesday.
"You've got to forget about what's going on,'' point guard Mike Conley said. "We're sliding a little bit; having a tough stretch. A little bit of adversity. But we've got to learn how to fight through this.''
Zach Randolph had 13 of his 18 points against the Suns in the first half, and the All-Star forward's production has dipped during the Grizzlies' five-game slide. He's averaged 14.8 points on 40.2 percent shooting in February after averaging 21.0 points and shooting 50.6 percent through the season's first three months.
Memphis is 4-18 when Randolph fails to score at least 20 points. In his second game with the Grizzlies following an offseason trade from the Los Angeles Clippers, Randolph had 30 points in the October win over the Raptors.
The Grizzlies could also use a big game from Marc Gasol, who was averaging 15.2 points before being held to 12.8 over his last five contests.
Gasol had 19 points against Toronto earlier this season and outplayed Andrea Bargnani, who had 12 before fouling out.
Bargnani has been a great offensive sidekick for Bosh lately, averaging 20.0 points and shooting 50.8 percent over his last eight games. When Bargnani is getting shots, the Raptors have typically been successful - they're 8-2 when he shoots the ball at least 17 times.
Toronto has scored at least 100 points in a franchise-best 17 straight games and is 17-0 when holding opponents under 100.
The Raptors last won nine consecutive home games in a single season from March 7-April 4, 1999. They won 10 straight in Toronto spanning the 2001-02 and 2002-03 campaigns.