Recently for Memphis
The Grizzlies are in the midst of an impressive 3-game winning streak which started with back-to-back wins against Western Conference rivals Portland and Dallas. The streak continued in New York on Monday with a 21 point blowout victory over the less-than-impressive Knicks. Memphis averaged 104 points per game in the 3 games and once again looked like the title contenders that we watched pre-All Star break.
Mike Conley looked more like his usual self in the first 2 games, averaging 17.5 points and 6 assists per game before he was able to take it easy against the Knicks, playing just 25 minutes in the victory. Vince Carter has started to play like the player we thought we were getting when he signed last summer. Since his return from injury (11 games) Carter has connected on 16 of his 37 attempts from behind the three point line. Let's hope that Vince can continue this fine shooting form and carry it into the playoffs.
Following the loss in Detroit, Jeff Green offered to come off the bench for the Grizzlies. Coach Joerger went with it and inserted Tony Allen back into the starting lineup for the Dallas game. Tony has been fantastic since getting back into the starting 5, averaging close to a double double (10.6 PPG, 8.8RPG), and has been the catalyst to this fine winning streak. The Grizzlies now begin a tricky stretch of 3 games against genuine title rivals. Starting with Cleveland and Golden State at home and finishing with a road game in San Antonio.
Recently for Cleveland
March has been a great month so far for the Cavs as they've won 9 out of 11 games in the month to date, and look right on course to claim the 2 seed in the East. Cleveland have had some impressive road wins in the month - at Toronto, Dallas, San Antonio, and Milwaukee - so they'll come into the Grindhouse confident that they will be able to take something from the game. Kyrie Irving celebrated his 23rd birthday earlier this week and has been in great form in the month of March. His standout performance came in San Antonio as he dropped 57 points on the Spurs and hit a perfect 7-7 from behind the three point line. LeBron James has been in fine form as well for the Cavs over the past 11 games, averaging 25.5 PPG in the month to date. Memphis will need to try to slow these two superstars down if they are to come away from the game with the win.
Three keys to winning the game
- Jeff Green
Over the past few games Jeff has looked a lot more interested on the defensive end than he has previously. If he decides to be lazy on D in this game, it could be a long night for the Grizzlies if they can't at least slow LeBron down. Memphis isn't going to be able to stop James completely, but to have any chance of winning, it's going to take a team effort on him to try and slow him down. Jeff will defend James quite often during this game thanks to his ability to match up with him physically, so he needs to be focused at all times and maybe give more effort on the defensive end than he gives on offense.
- Keep the turnovers low
After a few recent struggles, the Grizzlies have reduced their turnovers over the last 3 games (8.3PG). This needs to continue against Cleveland as every possession will count against a team that has averaged 112.8 PPG over the past 7 games. Memphis cannot afford to give extra possessions to a team that has the ability to put up huge numbers on any given night.
- Defend the three point line
Cleveland are averaging 9.8 three pointers made per game, and are ranked 5th in 3PT%, connecting on .365 of their three point attempts per game. The Grizzlies need to stay focused defending the perimeter by sticking to their men and trying not to get drawn into double teaming opponents in the paint where they can then look to kick it out for the open three. The Cavs have an abundance of good three point shooters who between them take an average of 27 three's per game compared to the Grizzlies 15.2 per game. I'm fine with Cleveland taking threes, but only if they are heavily contested.
The Grizzlies will stay locked in defensively for the full 48 minutes. Zach Randolph will once again own Kevin Love. Mike Conley will get the better of Kyrie Irving and hold him below 20 points. Jeff Geen will struggle with LeBron but it won't make a difference as Marc Gasol leads Memphis to a 105-101 victory.