The Memphis Grizzlies have a very cold reception in store on their road trip to Toronto to visit the Raptors.
The current four seed in the Western Conference are enjoying a four-game winning streak going into Wednesday's game against the Raptors. Had they not just sent Rudy Gay, their former star small forward to Toronto, Memphis would be strongly favored in this game.
But since the January 31 trade that sent Gay to Canada, the Raptors have ripped off a 6-2 stretch, during which Gay has been the game's leading scorer twice.
The only teams Toronto has lost to in that span are the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat. They played the Celtics in the middle of Boston's seven-game winning streak after Rajon Rondo went down, and the Heat have the best record in the Eastern Conference this season. No shame in those losses.
Gay has seen an uptick in his performance since he joined his new club. Before the trade, he averaged 17.2 points per game and 5.9 rebounds per game. Since the trade, those numbers have improved to 21.2 and 6.5, respectively.
Gay gives the Raptors a legitimate scoring option to go along with DeMar DeRozan. In fact, Gay is already outscoring DeRozan and ranks as the top scorer on the Raptors, on a per game basis.
Likewise, he took away that kind of scorer from the Grizzlies. Gay's 17.2 points per game in Memphis was the best on the team. They now have no one who averages over 15.6 points per game. That certainly does not help a team who ranks 26th in the league in scoring.
Another big reason that the Gay acquisition helped the Raptors was what it did to their point guard situation. Before the trade, the Raptors started Jose Calderon at point guard. Calderon was having a nice season, averaging 11.1 points per game and 7.4 assists per game. However, they also had Kyle Lowry on their roster, who is averaging 12.8 points per game, 6.0 assists per game and 4.5 rebounds per game. Since Calderon has left, those numbers have gone to 10.4, 7.0 and 4.8, respectively. Now that they have a great scorer instead of an extra point guard, they are a totally different team.
Since the trade, the Raptors defense has improved as well. The team allowed 99.9 points per game before the trade was made. Since that time, they allow opponents a more manageable 92.9 points per game. Gay is not known for his defensive skills, but having the 6'0" Lowry play with 6'8" Gay is better than having Lowry play with the 6'3" Calderon. It allows them to defend larger opponents more effectively, thus cutting down on the points they allow.
While the Grizzlies have played pretty well on the road, with a 13-10 record coming into Wednesday's game, they are still far better at home, where they are 21-8. The Raptors have taken advantage of home-court advantage this season, going 14-13 in Toronto, versus just 6-16 on the road. The Raptors might not be the best home team in the league, but playing in Toronto gives them a nice edge.
With the improvements the Raptors have made to their team with the Gay trade, combined with the loss the Grizzlies incurred by dealing him away, will give the Raptors a good chance to grab a big win against a playoff team.