Rudy Gay's return to Memphis was quite successful, not only for him personally, but for his Toronto teammates.
Gay, making his first appearance in Memphis since the Grizzlies traded him to Toronto on Jan. 30, scored 23 points, Kyle Lowry added 21 and the Raptors beat the Memphis Grizzlies 103-87 on Wednesday night.
Gay, who spent his first 6-plus years in the league with Memphis, acknowledged he almost instinctively went to the home dressing room when he entered the FedExForum. But he somewhat downplayed the return and whether his teammates were concentrating on him having a good game.
"I don't think it was for me as much as we needed any win," Gay said. "Obviously, you want to win every game, but for me personally, it was more emotional."
DeMar DeRozan, who scored 13 of his 18 points in the first quarter, said they were aware of the importance of Gay's performance in his return.
"He's definitely one of our go-to guys, so no matter if we were playing anybody, we're going to get him the ball and make sure he gets going," DeRozan said before adding, "It was just extra emotion for him coming back here the first time."
The Raptors ball movement was much better than Monday's double overtime 110-104 loss to Houston, when Toronto had only 10 assists from taking 114 shots. Against the Grizzlies, Toronto had 14 assists, led by Kyle Lowry's six. Gay and DeRozan had four assists each.
Mike Conley led Memphis with a season-high 29 points. Marc Gasol had 18 points while Zach Randolph and Tony Allen finished with 10 points apiece. Gasol and Randolph grabbed 10 rebounds each.
Memphis outrebounded the Raptors 40-37 and led the points in the paint 36-24. But the 8 of 15 from outside the arc for Toronto, plus hitting 33 of 39 free throws compared to 11 of 17 for Memphis gave the Raptors the advantage.
"I thought we were aggressive going to the basket and to the free throw line, which is huge for us," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "Most of all we shared the ball."
While Gay's return was successful, Memphis continues to struggle in finding its identity under Dave Joerger, its new coach. Four of the five Grizzlies losses have been by double digits and the defense that was Memphis' calling card in recent years and helped the team reach the Western Conference Finals last year is not as evident.
"We have been a team that has been very resilient in the past," Joerger said. "You have to be able to take the hit and keep coming. We will get there. We will be alright. There is definitely a level of frustration that we aren't playing hard enough."
The Raptors lead by as many as 15 in the first half before carrying a 55-44 halftime advantage. The Raptors hit 7 of 9 shots outside the arc before the break.
Conley got Memphis untracked early in the third scoring 10 early points to key a Memphis run. The Grizzlies eventually pulled even at 70 on a steal and layup by Conley, but the Raptors closed the period on an 8-1 rally for a 78-71 lead after three.
"We just buckled down," DeRozan said. "We understood they were going to throw a fight. They weren't going to lay down. We understood that, and we knew it was coming. We held our own and pushed back at them."
The Raptors extended that lead to 88-74 with a 10-3 run opening the fourth quarter. Memphis' 16th turnover led to a dunk by Terrence Ross, and Grizzlies Joerger called timeout. It didn't do much good because the Raptors would hit two more baskets before Mike Miller's 3-pointer stopped the run.
When Gay's 19-footer ran the score to 96-77 Raptors, the Memphis crowd began to boo.
NOTES: Gay is still the career leader in games played and ranks second in points and field goals made for the Grizzlies. ... A lot was made of Gay's return, but Austin Daye, who played with Memphis last season after the Gay trade, and Lowry, who started his career in Memphis, are part of Grizzlies history. ... Memphis G Jerryd Bayless returned to action after missing two games with a right knee sprain. Memphis F/G Quincy Pondexter missed the game recovering from a broken nose. ... The loss was the second consecutive for the Grizzlies. Memphis had alternated wins and losses through the first seven games of the season.