Preview: Raptors at Grizzlies
Kawhi Leonard may not have been a leader for the San Antonio Spurs, but he is leading the Toronto Raptors to new heights. Leonard will try to guide the Raptors to a sixth consecutive victory and continue the best start in franchise history when they visit the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday.
Leonard’s former coach, San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich, made news over the weekend by suggesting that while Leonard was a talented player, he wasn’t someone the team looked to for leadership. “I lead by example coming into practice every day,” Leonard responded to reporters after collecting 29 points and 10 rebounds in a 125-115 win over the Miami Heat on Sunday. “Just going hard and coming into these games mentally focused. You can’t see things once you’re playing on the floor. Guys ask me questions about their matchup or if I see something on the floor, I’m telling guys, ‘Go here, go there,’ just motivating people, do you know what I mean?” The Grizzlies don’t lack for veteran leadership with Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, but the two couldn’t quite pull the team to a win down the stretch on Sunday. “The combination of (Conley) and Marc (Gasol) together is a stress on defenses, there is no doubt about that,” Memphis coach J.B. Bickerstaff told reporters. “So, we depend on (Conley) down the stretch. We live and die with that.”
TV: 8 p.m. ET, Sportsnet One (Toronto), FS Southeast (Memphis)
ABOUT THE RAPTORS (17-4): Leonard is averaging 28 points and 10 rebounds in the last two games after sitting out to rest on the second night of a back-to-back Wednesday and is averaging 24.7 points and 8.5 boards in his first season with Toronto. Leonard is getting some help up front from power forward Pascal Siakam, who scored 21 points on 8-of-9 shooting on Sunday to go over 20 for the fifth time in the last 10 games. Siakam, who reached 20 points once in the first 11 contests, is shooting 63.1 percent from the floor while averaging 14.5 points and 6.7 rebounds.
ABOUT THE GRIZZLIES (12-7): Memphis dropped its last two games but continues to be impressed with the development of rookie power forward Jaren Jackson Jr., who scored 16 points on 6-of-6 shooting while knocking down a career-best four 3-pointers in Sunday’s 103-98 loss to the New York Knicks. Jackson, 19, is making his presence felt on the defensive end as well and matched a franchise rookie record with seven blocks on Sunday. “He was a monster on the defensive end,” Bickerstaff told reporters. “All the shots that he blocked, the shots that he changed, they switched out to him with a small on him and he kept the small in front of him and ended up blocking his shot – those are the things we need to be able to see.”
1. The Grizzlies recorded a franchise-record 19 blocked shots on Sunday.
2. Raptors C Jonas Valanciunas recorded a double-double in two of the last three contests.
3. Toronto took both meetings last season and five of the last six in the series.