Will Raptors devour skidding Grizzlies?
Toronto has hit the 50-win mark for the first time in franchise history. With an outside chance of chasing down Cleveland for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, though, why stop now?
There’s clearly much on the line when Dwane Casey’s bunch visits Memphis tonight, with an 8 p.m. ET tip at FedEx Forum. Oddsmakers at online sports book BetDSI list the Raptors as 5.5-point favorites. As for the over/under total, it resides at 198.
The Atlantic Division frontrunners eclipsed their previous record of 49 victories set last year with Wednesday’s 105-97 home triumph against Atlanta. DeMar DeRozan poured in 26 points, and Jonas Valanciunas added 19 to move The 6’s hoops heroes six contests clear of the third-place Hawks in the East. What’s more, Toronto (50-24) now trails the top-seeded Cavs by 2 1/5 games with eight to play.
Unfortunately for Memphis (41-34), its grip on a postseason spot out West looks increasingly tenuous. The Grizzlies dropped their fourth in a row two nights ago, 109-105 to woeful Denver, and coach Dave Joerger is adamant about holding onto fifth place and facing the Clippers instead of Oklahoma City.
Of course, the man at the helm can control very little on the continuously merciless injury front. Former All-Star center Marc Gasol went down with a broken foot in early February, while floor general Mike Conley continues to battle an Achilles ailment. At least power forward Zach Randolph returned from a sprained ankle to score 26 vs. the Nuggets.
The Raptors recognize the brutal turn this road trip will take after tonight’s affair (San Antonio and Charlotte lurk next week). They’re also eager to sweep Memphis for the second time in three campaigns. Ride with DeRozan, Kyle Lowry and the rest of the carnivorous gang.
FRIDAY NBA FREE PICK: TORONTO -5.5