Jackson leads hurting Grizzlies past Raptors

TORONTO – There has been so much turnover on the Toronto Raptors roster that even some of their newer players feel like they’re veterans.

Jaren Jackson Jr. scored 27 points to lead the injury-depleted Memphis Grizzlies past Toronto 108-100 on Monday. RJ Barrett of Mississauga, Ont., led Toronto with 29 points and added nine rebounds in only his 12th appearance with the team.

He said that the Raptors upcoming three days of practice will help the team find its new identity.

“I was about to say the three new guys, like I’m not a new guy you know?” laughed Barrett, who was traded to Toronto from the New York Knicks along with Immanuel Quickley on Dec. 30. “So, yeah, we’ve got five new guys so we’re trying to get used to everything.”

A blockbuster trade that sent all-star forward Pascal Siakam to the Indiana Pacers last week brought in Bruce Brown, Kira Lewis Jr., and Jordan Nwora, creating an entirely new feel in the Raptors’ locker room, again.

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“Even from when I got traded here we still were starting Pascal,” said Barrett. “So with him leaving now it’s a completely new team again and we’ve just got to have the time to practise and to focus in on how we’re going to play now with this new group that we have.”

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Scottie Barnes had a double-double with 22 points and 12 rebounds as Toronto (16-28) dropped its third game in a row. He also had eight assists in the 18th double-double of his season.

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Veteran forward Thaddeus Young has seen his minutes increase sharply since the Raptors swung their two deals. He said he’s been in his teammates’ ears, trying to encourage them through this tumultuous period.

“We explained to the team probably a week ago and just said we’ve had a lot of change within a month, and when you have a lot of change in a month, it’s unfamiliar territory,” said Young, who had 12 points and six rebounds in 26:15 of play on Monday. “To get over that we’ve just got to continue to play, continue to stay the course.”

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Luke Kennard added 19 points for the Grizzlies (16-27), who had three fewer players on their bench than the Raptors.

Memphis was missing seven players due to injury before the game, including all-star point guard Ja Morant, who has been out since Jan. 8 with season-ending shoulder surgery. The Grizzlies lost yet another player early in the fourth quarter when starting forward Santi Aldama went down with an injured right knee.

“We found a way,” said Memphis head coach Taylor Jenkins. “This was a great overall effort, a lot of different guys stepping up.”

Barrett had a one-handed dunk with 5:10 left in the first to pull Toronto to within three points and earn a round of cheers from the 18,577 at Scotiabank Arena. That was about as close as the Raptors would come in the quarter, with Memphis building a 30-25 lead.

Brown finished off the half with a breakout layup, fed by Barrett, to the delight of the Raptors faithful but Toronto still trailed 53-46 at intermission.

Although Barnes scored 10 points in the third quarter and pulled down six rebounds, the Raptors continued to fall behind. Kennard had eight of his points in the period as Memphis expanded its lead to 85-71.

Barrett had a short field goal with 41.1 seconds left in the game to pull Toronto to within eight, the closest the Raptors had been since early in the third quarter. Jackson scored nine of his points in the final period to keep Memphis’s lead safe.

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POELTL IMPROVEMENT — There is still no timetable for centre Jakob Poeltl’s return to Toronto’s lineup after being out for two weeks with an ankle injury. Raptors head coach Darko Rajakovic said before Monday’s game that Poeltl is progressing well.

“He has started to work on the court,” said Rajakovic. “He’s according to plan progressing with the loads and what he’s allowed to do.

“We are hoping to see him playing very, very soon.”

UP NEXT — Toronto hosts the Los Angeles Clippers (27-14) on Friday.

Memphis visits the Miami Heat (24-19) on Wednesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2024.

&copy 2024 The Canadian Press

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