Streaking Raptors try to keep Grizzlies down (Dec 08, 2017)

The Toronto Raptors will be looking to extend a four-game winning streak when they tip off a four-game trip against the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night.

The Raptors will also see the Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Clippers and Phoenix Suns on the tour of Western Conference sites.

Toronto is coming off a 126-113 home victory over the Suns on Wednesday as the Raptors continued to take advantage of a soft spot in the schedule.

Toronto has faced only one team (Indiana, twice) with a winning record among its last six contests, and won’t see another above-.500 club until meeting the Philadelphia 76ers on Dec. 21, which is eight games from now.

The lesser competition has allowed the Raptors to focus on spreading the offensive wealth rather than relying on guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. Seven players scored in double figures Wednesday, and the club’s 30 assists were one shy of their season best.

Overall, the Raptors have recorded 25 or more assists 10 times already this season, after having reached that mark only nine times all of last year.

“We’ve talked about it a lot,” noted backup forward Jakob Poeltl, who scored 13 versus the Suns. “We’ve worked on it a lot and it’s paying off.

“It’s as easy as that. It’s not like (Lowry) and (DeRozan) are the only guys scoring on our team. Everybody is scoring. We are moving the ball and it’s fun to play that way.”

While the Raptors have used improved ball movement to score 100 or more points in 10 straight games, the Grizzlies have struggled with their chief assist man, guard Mike Conley, out of action.

Memphis was 7-6 and had topped 100 points six times before deciding to shelf Conley on Nov. 14 in hopes to relieve the pain in his Achilles.

The Grizzlies have gone 1-10 since, held to 98 or fewer points on all but two of the occasions.

The plan is to get Conley back by the end of the month.

The Grizzlies were credited with only 14 assists in their 99-88 loss at New York on Wednesday.

“We stood around too much,” interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff observed of his club’s offense. “We got stagnant and just watched. One guy tried to go one-on-one. We weren’t cutting. We weren’t moving. We weren’t sharing or moving the ball.

“We can’t survive that way. We’re a team that if we’re going to be the best we can be, we have to involve everyone offensively. Being involved doesn’t always mean you get the ball. You have to move and cut and screen and do things for others.”

The Grizzlies have lost four of five since firing coach David Fizdale.

Bickerstaff has promoted Tyreke Evans into Conley’s starting spot, but the move has had just mixed results.