|Siakam emerging as another weapon as Raptors prep for Grizzlies|
The Toronto Raptors are far ahead of the Memphis Grizzlies in the win column, but that does not always indicate how a game will be played.
The Raptors needed a buzzer-beating layup by Pascal Siakam on Thursday night to pull out a 111-109 victory over the Phoenix Suns, who have the worst record in the Western Conference.
The Raptors (34-13) led by 16 points in the first half, but there were nine lead changes in the fourth quarter, including four in the final three minutes. It took another big play by the emerging Siakam to subdue the visiting Suns.
It was the fourth game-winning buzzer-beater by a Raptor in the last 15 seasons and marked the first time at home. Toronto plays the second game in a three-game homestand Saturday.
Siakam, a third-year forward, has earned coach Nick Nurse's confidence in important situations.
"That means a lot," Siakam said. "It (is) a testament to my hard work, what I've been doing and I'm just so glad they trust me in situations like that. All it can do is build confidence."
Siakam finished the game with 10 points and 12 rebounds, his 10th career double-double -- all them coming this season.
The teams not only differ in their position in the standings, but also in recent form. The Raptors have won six of their past seven games, while the Grizzlies have lost 10 of 11 after dropping a 122-116 decision at the Boston Celtics on Friday night.
The Grizzlies (19-26) gave it a good try. After trailing by 16 points, they led 62-58 at halftime before Boston's Kyrie Irving scored 20 of his 38 points in the third quarter.
After the game Saturday, the Grizzlies will return home for five games, starting Monday against the New Orleans Pelicans.
"This has been a tough couple of weeks with the schedule and everything," Grizzlies coach J.B. Bickerstaff said.
"We've got a nice homestand next week. Our responsibility is to show up every day, work, get better, put the work in, put the time in and see what our best is capable of. I don't think we've played our best for long enough stretches of time."
The Raptors defeated the Grizzlies 122-114 on Nov. 27 at Memphis in the other game between the teams this season. The Raptors have won the past three matchups to even the all-time series record at 23.
The Grizzlies started the season with a 12-5 record but are 7-21 since then.
The stretch is the worst for the Grizzlies when point guard Mike Conley and center Marc Gasol are healthy since Gasol's rookie season in 2008-09.
"I think that's what makes it most frustrating," Conley said.
"Marc and I are so used to winning. We've built a lot here and set standards in a way that everyone who has come in here has followed that. The group here has done a great job as well. But for whatever reason, we've hit this slump and haven't been able to get out.
"Me and Marc both take a lot of responsibility. We have to be better if we're going to be better."
Conley scored 26 points on Friday, while Gasol had four points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds.
The Raptors will have forward Kawhi Leonard back in the lineup. He did not play in the second game of a back-to-back set Thursday after he scored 33 points in a loss at Boston on Wednesday.
Leonard, who missed most of last season with a quadriceps injury, has yet to play both ends of back-to-back games this season. Nurse said the time is coming for him to do so. He has scored at least 20 points for a career-best 20 consecutive games, three short of Vince Carter's club record.
Raptors forward OG Anunoby will miss his third straight game Saturday for personal reasons.
Nurse also considered resting Kyle Lowry on Thursday but decided a couple of hours before the game to play the point guard. Lowry responded with 16 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. He picked up his 5,000th career assist and 3,500th career rebound in the game.
"It's awesome, right?" Nurse said.
"He's been in the league a long time, had the ball in his hands and got it to a lot of people. That's one thing, since I came here five and a half years ago, it was the first thing I noticed -- how he finds the right guys to get the ball to. He really commands the offense and knows where to get it. That's a great milestone for him, really awesome."
The Raptors have won a season-best eight in a row at home. The franchise record is 12, set last season.
--Field Level Media