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Game Preview: Memphis Grizzlies vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

After a tough loss against the league-leading Thunder in Oklahoma City, the Grizzlies will face what should be a much easier foe, the Cleveland Cavaliers, back in the familiar confines of the FedEx Forum.

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
2013/2014 NBA Season
32-25 (17-14 home)
Lost 1
24-36 (9-21 road)
Won 2
March 1st, 2014
FedexForum in Memphis, TN
8:00 PM CDT
Fox SportsSouth/ 92.9 FM ESPN
Possible Starters
Mike Conley PG Kyrie Irving
Courtney Lee SG Jarrett Jack
Tayshaun Prince SF Luol Deng
Zach Randolph PF Tristan Thompson
Marc Gasol C Spencer Hawes
2013/14 Advanced Stats
92.2 (30th) Pace 95.5 (20th )
102.3 (T-20th) OEff 99.8 (24th)
102.5 (T-11th) DEff 104.3 (17th)

Line: Memphis -9.5: O/U: 186.5

Opponent's Blog: Fear The Sword

Injury Report: Memphis: Quincy Pondexter - Out (Foot); Cleveland: Anthony Bennett - Out (Knee); Anderson Varejao - Out (Back); Dion Waiters - Out (Knee); C.J. Miles - Out (Ankle); Carrick Felix - Out (Knee)

Memphis Grizzlies Tickets

Mike Conley vs. Kyrie Irving

Mike Conley missed the last and only meeting of the season with the Cavaliers thus far, a game the Grizzlies lost. The Grizzlies could have used him to limit Kyrie Irving's offensive explosion. Irving finished with 28 points that game, and neither Nick Calathes nor Darius Morris could garner a stop. With Conley back for the second time around, the Grizzlies chances of containing one of the slipperiest, most skilled players with the ball in his hands in the NBA increase exponentially.

Although Calathes did an excellent job offensively in the first meeting against the Cavs, the Grizzlies are much better served when his offense is supplementing Conley's, not attempting to replace it. After Conley's offensive impact was largely nullified just a night ago against the Oklahoma City Thunder, he is poised to have a bounce back game. It helps that he will be facing a guard in Kyrie Irving that is much less interested in playing tenacious defense than Russell Westbrook.

Offensively, Irving is deadly in the high pick and roll, so the Grizzlies must communicate and attempt to ICE the pick and roll before it ever gets started. If that doesn't work, the Grizzlies must aggressively hedge and force Irving sideways rather than allowing him to penetrate into the lane.

Utilize Hand Offs and Off Ball Screens

This shouldn't be a problem for the Grizzlies. Joerger's offense is laden with plays that involve both actions, and Courtney Lee and Mike Miller are masters at finding open space by running off screens and receiving hand offs. Miller has been hot recently, hitting nearly every shot where he has been given even an inch of space.

The Grizzlies use a heavy dose of pin down screens and back screens to free up Lee on the wing, whereas Miller thrives on hand off opportunities where he circles around the key from the corner. If the Grizzlies create for Miller and Lee early and often, Memphis' offense will be in a much better place.

Oh, and did I mention that the Cavaliers are terrible at defending both play types? The Cavs rank 30th in defending shots that come off screens and 28th in defending shots that come from hand offs.

Clean Up the Defensive Glass

It's simple really. The Cavaliers are not a good offensive team, and they don't really have a ton of firepower. The easiest way to beat them is to ensure that they do not get a lot of easy second-chance points off of offensive rebounds. To the Grizzlies pleasure, they won't have to contend with keeping Anderson Varejao off the glass, as he is out with a back injury. If the Grizzlies make the Cavs fight for every bucket, they should be able to generate enough offense themselves to win comfortably.

Final Prediction

Something weird would have to happen for the Cavaliers to beat the Grizzlies in both meetings between the teams this season. Memphis is a far superior team, and they will play like it Saturday night. The Grizzlies defense isn't all the way back to where it was last season, but the bar is being raised on a nightly basis. That's scary for a Cavs team that struggles to generate offense. Also, it's hard to keep Conley down and out two nights in a row. He should be able to pick apart Cleveland's porous defense. It won't be a blowout from the beginning, but the Grizzlies will gain some distance in the third quarter by using their depth and wearing down a beaten up Cavs squad.

Final Score: Memphis 91, Cleveland 82