Morant leads Grizzlies past Raptors 119-106 as Brooks dominant in return to Toronto

TORONTO — All-star point guard Ja Morant had a double-double to lead the Memphis Grizzlies past the Toronto Raptors 119-106 on Thursday.

Morant finished with 19 points, 17 assists and four rebounds.

Dillon Brooks from nearby Mississauga, Ont., added 25 points, six assists and four rebounds for Memphis (21-13). Steven Adams scored 14 points and pulled down 17 rebounds.

Pascal Siakam had 25 points, 10 rebounds and four assists for Toronto (15-20).

Scottie Barnes had a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds as Gary Trent Jr. scored 20 off the bench.

Star point guard Fred VanVleet missed the game with ongoing back issues. Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said forward Precious Achiuwa could return on Friday.

Montreal's Khem Birch had an emphatic dunk in the dying seconds of the first quarter for the Raptors and then fellow Montrealer Chris Boucher combined with O.G. Anunoby to block a layup by Memphis guard Tyus Jones to end the period. Despite those back-to-back highlight-reel plays, Toronto trailed the visitors 30-20 after 12 minutes.

Siakam made two free throws, his fourth and fifth of the game, to cut the Grizzlies' lead to 57-43 at the half. He led the Raptors with 11 points, five rebounds, and two assists to that point.

Brooks led all scorers at the break with 15 points. The Canadian also had four assists and two rebounds through two quarters.

Barnes walked off the court, through the crowd, and straight to Toronto's locker room at the 8:30 mark of the third as play continued without him. Barnes was rubbing his face in obvious pain as he walked between rows of fans to the tunnel.

He returned to the court less than three minutes later, however, seemingly no worse for wear.

Morant shone in the third, scoring 13 points in the quarter alone to extend Memphis's lead to 93-75. Siakam had 10 points in the period as the Raptors continued to fall behind the Grizzlies.

Toronto showed some life in the fourth quarter, going on a run to come within nine of Memphis. That forced the Grizzlies to put their starting five back out on the floor to reassert their lead.

WELCOME HOME — Brooks was in the Grizzlies' starting lineup with Vancouver's Brandon Clarke coming off the bench. Memphis head coach Taylor Jenkins said before the game that his two Canadians were eager to play in their home and native land.

"Last year you felt that energy being different for D.B. and B.C.," said Jenkins, who noted that the Grizzlies have only visited Toronto twice in the past four years because of COVID-19 restrictions. "Any time we've got guys go back to their hometowns, but especially when you're out of the country and you're in your home country, it's very special for those guys."

ROLL WITH JUANCHO — Juancho Hernangomez started at centre for the Raptors for the seventh consecutive game, despite only getting one assist and one rebound in Tuesday's 124-113 loss to the L.A. Clippers. Nurse said that Hernangomez's usage is driven by potential matchups and that he liked what the Spaniard could have done against the Clippers' Ivica Zubac.

UP NEXT — Toronto hosts the Phoenix Suns (20-16) on Friday night in their sixth back-to-back of the season. The Raptors have yet to win both games in those back-to-backs, most recently losing to Golden State and Philadelphia on Dec. 18 and 19. Toronto has not played the Suns since last season, when Gary Trent Jr. scored 42 points as the Raptors beat Phoenix 117-112 on March 11.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 29, 2022.

John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press