WHO: Memphis Grizzlies (17-8, 7-4 road) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (17-5, 11-2 home)
WHEN: 6 PM CT
WHERE: Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Mike Conley (Out, Back), James Ennis (Out, Calf), Brandan Wright (Out, Ankle), Chandler Parsons (Out, Knee), Marc Gasol (Out, Rest), Vince Carter (Questionable, Hip)
CLEVELAND: Channing Frye (Questionable, Personal)
Memphis - Andrew Harrison, Tony Allen, Troy Williams, JaMychal Green, Zach Randolph
Cleveland - Kyrie Irving, J.R. Smith, LeBron James, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson
The Memphis Grizzlies made tonight’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers a little less interesting, at least on the surface, with the announcement Monday night that Marc Gasol did not make the trip to Cleveland. That is not to fault the Grizzlies for this decision - as I discussed last night, Gasol could use the rest. It just makes this game a bit less intriguing from a “who is going to win?” standpoint...
In theory. Remember, the last time the Memphis Grizzlies visited the Cavaliers in the Q last season they pulled off one of the most improbable wins of the season. They started Ryan Hollins and P.J. Hairston (Hairston played 37 minutes!!!!) and with eight players somehow beat a perfectly healthy Cavs team 106-103. Tony Allen led the Grizzlies that night with 26 points.
Can it happen again tonight? After Memphis’ thorough whooping of the Warriors, I wouldn’t put anything past the Grizzlies. How can they pull off a massive upset?
- PICK YOUR PACE- It isn’t like the Cavaliers are speed demons with regard to pace. They are currently 15th in the NBA in that metric, while Memphis is 28th. But that doesn’t mean that the Grizzlies should slow the game to a crawl the entire 48 minute contest. Memphis has to pick and choose when to push the pace. When Zach Randolph is on the floor? Probably best to slow things down and play through him. When it’s Jarell Martin and Deyonta Davis next to Troy Williams and Wade Baldwin IV? RUN. RUN AS FAST AS YOU CAN. Use your athleticism and energy to throw Cleveland off.
- CREATE MORE OPPORTUNITIES- Remember that Grizzlies win over Golden State? That was awesome, right? One of the major reasons Memphis pulled that upset off was turning Golden State over 23 times. Taking possessions away from an efficient offense like Cleveland must be a priority, especially with Gasol missing the game. Risks have to be taken to have lightning strike twice.
THE PREDICTION- This may surprise you, but Memphis is not favored to win this game. Nor should they be. Cleveland, outside of Frye, is healthy and playing great basketball after winning four straight games. The Cavaliers will possibly do to Memphis Wednesday what the Grizzlies are doing to them tonigh - rest LeBron, perhaps even Love and/or Kyrie, and look ahead to the next contest.
It will be interesting to see if Cleveland has learned from the sins of last season. These Grizzlies have heart, and they will surely keep it close. But without all three of Gasol, Conley, and Parsons? It’s hard to see Memphis pulling this upset off. If Memphis keeps it close, perhaps the game tomorrow at home (with Cleveland perhaps resting LeBron) will be the better bet for the hope to split this home and home series.
Memphis 93, Cleveland 101