WHEN: 6:30 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, Achilles), Wayne Selden Jr. (Out, Quad), Brandan Wright (Questionable, Groin), Mario Chalmers (Questionable, Ankle), Chandler Parsons (Questionable, Knee)
Cleveland- Iman Shumpert (Out, Knee), Tristan Thompson (Out, Calf), Isaiah Thomas (Out, Hip), Derrick Rose (Out, Personal)
Memphis- Tyreke Evans, Ben McLemore, Dillon Brooks, JaMychal Green, Marc Gasol
Cleveland- Jose Calderon, J.R. Smith, LeBron James, Jae Crowder, Kevin Love’
Tonight, the Memphis Grizzlies take on a team that is their exact opposite at the moment.
The Grizzlies, you see, are in the midst of a 10-game losing streak. They have been thoroughly outplayed the last four games, losing by at least 9 points in each of those contests. Memphis cannot shoot the ball well at all and after firing their head coach David Fizdale continues to flounder without Mike Conley. It looks like it will get worse before it gets better.
Part of that is because of their opponent this evening. The Cavs have won 10 straight contests, and LeBron James looks the part of an MVP candidate/one of the best players in the world. It isn’t like Cleveland is healthy- they are without at least three key players and through James, Kevin Love, and others the Cavaliers are getting the job done. The stars are shining brightly for Cleveland, while there is nothing but darkness in Memphis at the moment.
It will be extremely difficult for Memphis to win this game. After a one-game return Chandler Parsons (resting on the second night of a back to back) and Brandan Wright (re-aggrevated groin injury) will likely be out, meaning more minutes for lesser players for Memphis. But if they want to be victorious, they must do the following-
Dominate Jose Calderon
No offense to the Cavaliers, but their point guard situation (when LeBron isn’t playing the point forward spot) is more of a dumpster fire than even that of the Grizzlies. Thomas is out, Rose may be retiring soon, and Jose Calderon is starting games in 2017. Tyreke Evans, and even Mario Chalmers, must have good-to-great games to take advantage of Calderon while he is on the court. Dwyane Wade and James will see time in that spot as well, and considering they are not naturally those types of players, especially Wade, Memphis has to try to force Cleveland in to making mistakes.
Turnovers are the best friends of the Grizzlies. Easy buckets are hard to come by for Memphis right now, so pressuring on both ends of the floor and attacking the rim offensively against Calderon should be a priority.
Slowing Kevin Love
The Memphis Grizzlies have no answer for LeBron James. He is going to have his way with Memphis, and considering James was one of those NBA stars shocked and angered by the firing of David Fizdale earlier in the week he may well be motivated to give the Grizzlies extra hell. So the next best Cavalier, Kevin Love, should be the target of Memphis defenders. If James is going to go off any way, limiting the effectiveness off Love must be a priority by forcing him off his spots as a shooter. Almost half of Kevin Love’s shot attempts come from three, and the Grizzlies do not have the best track record of late defending bigs who can shoot (cough LaMarcus Aldridge cough).
Shooting is all about timing. If JaMychal Green, Marc Gasol and whoever else has the task of defending Love can make him uncomfortable, force him off his spots, and make him play more physically closer to the rim than he likely wants to, Memphis will be able to hang in this thing for a while even if LeBron loses his mind. He cannot do it alone.
The chances for the Grizzlies to pull the upset hinge on a lot of things. In addition to the tasks above, Memphis must also shoot much better than they have of late against a Cavaliers defense ranked 27th in the NBA so far this season. They have to get Tyreke Evans and Dillon Brooks scoring. They have to be more conscious of their rosters and not put struggling players like Andrew Harrison and Jarell Martin together on any given unit for an extended period. They need to play their better players a lot of minutes- like 40 minutes- and they need to play their worse players very few minutes, or not at all in a shorter rotation. They need a vintage Marc “Wendigo” Gasol game.
There is just too much to has to go exactly right for Memphis to have a chance, and that is with assuming that Cleveland maybe won’t play their best game...which their current winning streak would suggest isn’t likely to happen. The Grizzlies are falling further and further down the Western Conference standings, and I wouldn’t see them stopping that at Cleveland if they were totally healthy. Considering several good players likely miss time tonight for Memphis?
Cleveland 110, Memphis 95
Stats provided by basketball-reference.com