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Ailing Raptors make a game of it against Grizzlies

Toronto Raptors' guard Jerryd Bayless goes to the basket against Memphis Grizzlies' Marc Gasol and Rudy Gay during the Grizzlies' 100-98 win in Toronto on Jan. 24, 2011.

MARK BLINCH/Mark Blinch/Reuters

Julian Wright is a rare Toronto Raptor these days - bones intact, void of the chills and lucky enough to have dodged a certain plague.

"Injury bug," he said in the Raptors' locker room before Toronto suffered its eighth straight loss on Monday with a rotation whittled down to eight players from 15.

It's been weeks since the Toronto Raptors have been anywhere close to healthy.

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The injured list is routinely long, beat reporters have become well versed in knee anatomy, flu-like symptoms and "fractures of the fifth metatarsal," and head coach Jay Triano has occasionally stooped to using cheat sheets to rhyme off his list of maimed players.

But Monday's heartbreaking 100-98 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies at the Air Canada Centre took Toronto's injury saga to a whole new level. "I don't even know what to classify as health any more," Triano said.

He and his coaching staff had fewer bench options than an average pickup game, and a handful of those were simply the healthiest of an unhealthy bunch.

They put a uniform on Sonny Weems, who hasn't played a single minute in the last 19 games due to back spasms.

Hours before tipoff, they informed point-guard-for-hire Sundiata Gaines that he'd be a Raptor for at least one more game (he'd been hired on a 10-day contract to relieve the hobbled Jose Calderon and Jerryd Bayless combination).

A sudden flu had made Calderon unable to stand this time, not the sprained ankle or sore foot that have been bothering him recently.

Meantime, the starting lineup morphed throughout the day as medical assessments rolled in. The final version featured two reserves, including Bayless and Wright, who logged his fourth start of the season and contributed 11 points, and tied a team-high nine rebounds in an astronomical (for him) 41 minutes.

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"Crazy," Wright muttered before the game, shaking his head.

Game report

Despite trailing for most of three quarters, the Raptors surged from a 12-point disadvantage in the fourth quarter to lead 92-91 with 3:58 remaining. Memphis regained the lead and had a two-point edge until Bayless drove hard to the hoop and tied the score with 18.1 seconds to go. Then, after an inbounds pass, Rudy Gay nailed a fading jumper in the game's dying seconds. Game over.

Bayless finished with a career-high 11 assists, along with 15 points and eight rebounds.

Andrea Bargnani led the Raptors with a game-high 29 points on 48-per-cent shooting from the floor. Wright played for 41 minutes. This season, he's averaged 15.3. Toronto hasn't dropped eight straight since a 10-game slide March 26 to April 12, 2006.

Roster changes

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Toronto announced Monday it had acquired 22-year-old centre Alexis Ajinca, along with a future second-round draft pick and cash considerations, from the Dallas Mavericks. Swapping the 7-foot-2, 250-pound Frenchman clears a spot on the Mavericks' roster for recently departed Raptor Peja Stojakovic. Ajinca is scheduled to suit up for the Raptors on Wednesday against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Injury report

The Raptors were without Leandro Barbosa (right hamstring), Joey Dorsey (right foot), Linas Kleiza (knee), Calderon (flu) and Reggie Evans (foot). Weems played nine minutes. "Seems like it's always something," said DeMar DeRozan, who finished with 25 points. "Somebody's hurt, somebody is getting sick, but we can't really worry about that. We've just got to keep playing."

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