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Memphis Grizzlies at Cleveland Cavaliers Preview: Win the winnable games

The Grizzlies head to Cleveland for a game they need to win against a 17-33 Cavaliers team.

Spruce Derden-US PRESSWIRE
2013/2014 NBA Season
27-22 (14-8 road)
Won 1
17-33 (11-13 home)
Won 1
February 9th, 2014
Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio
5:00 PM CDT
Fox SportsSouth/ 92.9 FM ESPN
Possible Starters
Nick Calathes PG Kyrie Irving
Courtney Lee SG Jarrett Jack
Tayshaun Prince SF Luol Deng
Zach Randolph PF Tristan Thompson
Marc Gasol C Anderson Varejao
2013/14 Advanced Stats
92.1 (30th) Pace 95.8 (T-18th)
102.9 (18th) OEff 99.0 (24th)
103.0 (15th) DEff 99.2 (T-23rd)
Injury Report

Cleveland - none

Memphis- Quincy Pondexter (Out, Foot) Tony Allen (Out, Hand) Mike Conley (Out, Ankle)

Opponent's Blog: Fear the Sword

Key Matchups

Zach Randolph vs. Tristan Thompson Zach Randolph has quietly been the engine that has kept the Grizzlies' train rolling through the fits and starts of injuries to Marc Gasol and Mike Conley.  He has upped his scoring average every month this season while providing his normal excellent rebounding effort.  Tristan Thompson is having a solid statistical season (11.9 PPG, 9.4 RPG) but is smaller than Z-Bo and doesn't offer a lot defensively.  On paper, this is a matchup Z-Bo should be able to exploit for a big night.

Kyrie Irving vs. Nick Calathes Now, to a matchup that seems to heavily favor Cleveland on paper.  Irving is clearly one of the league's best young guards, and Calathes will have his hands full just trying to stay in front of him on defense.  Calathes is coming off a struggling performance against the Hawks, in which he went 5-15, turned the ball over 4 times and finishing with a -16 +/-.  Calathes has shown a sneaky ability to jump passing lanes and come up with steals, putting together 10 in his past 3 games.  If he can be disruptive and find a way to come out somewhere near even at the point, it would greatly help the Grizzlies' cause.

Luol Deng vs. Tayshaun Prince & James Johnson After a short stretch of really strong basketball after joining the Cavaliers, Deng has been up and down for Cleveland.  For example, in Cleveland's first 2 games in February, Deng put up 42 points, then put up 3 points on 1-10 shooting against the Lakers before missing the Cavs' last game with flu-like symptoms.  Tayshaun Prince is shooting 11% and has 4 points in 85 minutes in February.  Ouch.  So... which Deng will the Grizzlies see, how bad will Tayshaun suck, and will James Johnson just be the normal Thing Happener or the Equalizer, as he has been many nights for the Grizzlies?  All 3 could factor into this game's outcome.

Riding Marc

Marc Gasol has been playing heavy minutes his last 3 games - 38, 38, & 39 - and has been noticeably a step slow and ineffective to different degrees in those games.  One has to wonder why Kosta Koufos and Ed Davis have been relegated to the bench so much while Marc struggles through big minutes.  Marc did play well in non-scoring aspects in his last game vs. the Hawks, so hopefully he can mirror the 8 rebounds and 7 assists while improving on his 4-14 shooting.

Lee's Impact

Courtney Lee continues to make a big impact night in and night out.  Since joining the Grizzlies, he is averaging 14.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 1.8 assists while shooting 55% from the field, 41% from 3, and 90% from the free throw line (hellooo 50/40/90 club) while playing good fundamental basketball on both ends of the court.  It's almost hard to remember that some disliked the trade when it was made.

Grizzlies front office dedicated to playoff push

Despite Mike Conley's injury and the Grizzlies dropping 2 of the first 3 games following it, the Grizzlies front office continues to show signs they're looking to improve the team for the stretch run.  In the past dew days, reports have come out that the Grizzlies are turning away offers for Zach Randolph - his production makes it easy to see why - and instead are trying to find a way to acquire a small forward, presumably to replace Tayshaun Prince and his lack of production this season and this month in particular.  Also, as our own Kevin Yeung pointed out:

Turmoil in Cleveland

3 days ago, the Cavaliers fired general manager Chris Grant and named vice president of basketball operations David Griffin acting general manager.  This is a team that had high hopes coming into the season - signing Andrew Bynum, hiring Mike Brown who had previously coached the team in some of its most successful years during the LeBron James era.   Bynum fizzling out mightily along with a plethora of other under-performances have cost the GM his job and could possibly get Brown at some point too, though he's in the 1st year of a 5 year deal so it could be costly.

Joe's neat-o fact-o-the-day

Kyrie Irving's field goal, 3 point, and free throw percentages have declined every year he's been in the league, and have declined after the All-Star break his two previous seasons.  It seems just about now is the time of year he starts to fade.

The Bottom Line

Judging by the teams' overall records and the Grizzlies' 10-4 record vs. the Eastern conference and 14-8 road record, the Grizzlies should win this game.  That said, the Cavaliers would seem to have potential advantages at point guard and small forward, and will be playing at home, where they are a near-.500 team.  I don't expect a cakewalk, but this is a game the Grizzlies need to win to keep within shooting distance of a playoff spot.