WHEN: 6:00 PM
WHERE: Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse Cleveland, Ohio
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/NBA League Pass/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: John Konchar (Questionable, ankle), Ja Morant (Out, ankle), Jaren Jackson Jr. (Out, ankle), Justise Winslow (Out, hip), Killian Tillie (Out, hamstring), Jontay Porter (Out, knee)
Cleveland Cavaliers: Darius Garland (Out, Shoulder), Dante Exum (Out, Calf), Kevin Porter Jr. (Out, Personal Reasons), Matthew Dellavedova (Day to Day, Concussion), Dylan Windler (Out, Hand), Kevin Love (Out, Calf) Collin Sexton (Day to Day, Ankle)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP:
MEMPHIS: Tyus Jones, Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, Brandon Clarke, Jonas Valanciunas
CLEVELAND: Isaac Okoro, Damyean Dotson, Cedi Osman, Larry Nance Jr., Andre Drummond
Coming off three satisfying performances against the Charlotte Hornets and Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis welcomed these same Cleveland Cavaliers to FedExForum last Thursday night. This contest was viewed as the Grizzlies most winnable game so far this season, especially since, similar to Memphis, Cleveland was dealing with several injuries. Unfortunately, a very lackluster effort from Memphis resulted in a disappointing loss for the Grizzlies. Fortunately, the next night, Memphis was able to right the ship and earn a much needed victory against the Brooklyn Nets.
The big difference between the two games was effort and effectiveness. The Grizzles were much more active on Friday than Thursday, and the difference in the amount of disruption caused was evident. Furthermore, they were much more effective offensively in the fourth quarter on Friday night. Players were moving and making plays off the ball, which led to higher percentage shots. Everyone on the roster contributed in multiple ways against the Nets, which the Grizzlies will certainly need every time they play.
False alarm. Everyone around me is healthy and I am cleared to get back on the court. Thank you all for the support. Stay safe! ✊#ThisIsJonas #ProudLithuanian #GrindCity @memgrizz pic.twitter.com/pfSc3bYJXc— Jonas Valanciunas (@JValanciunas) January 10, 2021
Though the Grizzlies did gain an important win, they also dealt with a reminder of the “new normal” in sports. Jonas Valanciunas was removed from the game in the second quarter due to the NBA’s Health and Safety Protocols. Fortunately, Valanciunas’s situation seems to have been resolved over the weekend, and he will be available for tonight’s game. That is a critical development for Memphis, as they begin a stretch of games against some of the best bigs in the NBA.
That begins tonight as the Grizzlies begin a three game road trip in Cleveland against the Cavaliers. Cleveland is 5-5 on the season and, despite injury struggles, has certainly exceeded expectations so far. One reason is the play of Andre Drummond, who had 22 points, 15 rebounds, and the difference-making assist that likely won the game for Cleveland on Thursday (along with one of the more memorable offensive possessions in recent NBA history). He followed that up with 26 points and 24 rebounds on Saturday.
Another reason is the fact that the Cavaliers are allowing the fewest points per game in the NBA this season. They are allowing the fifth lowest FG% in the NBA, including the 4th lowest 2PFG% in the league. Though the Grizzlies enjoy finding success in the paint, Cleveland is very good at limiting looks as teams get closer to the basket. As a result, a key for the Grizzlies will be creating and converting high percentage looks at the basket from distance.
Both Drummond and Cleveland’s defense are two big keys that the Grizzlies will need to focus on in order to get another needed victory tonight. However, the best way for the Grizzlies to give themselves a good chance to win is to play with the same energy and execution that they displayed Friday night.
MORE ENERGY, BETTER EXECUTION
One common trait that Cleveland and Memphis share is that both teams are certainly improving defensively. In fact, Memphis is now second in the league in steals and second in deflections. The only issue tonight is that Cleveland ranks first in both categories. Both teams are among the top ten teams in the league in terms of fewest fouls committed per game. Both teams are finding success by forcing turnovers and limiting their own mistakes to gain extra possessions.
It all comes back to effort and execution. By creating seven more turnovers than Brooklyn and grabbing eight more offensive rebounds Friday night, the Grizzlies created 17 more shot attempts and earned the win. On Thursday night against Cleveland, the Grizzlies committed more turnovers and fouls, which was a significant reason the Cavaliers won. The Grizzlies are on par with the Cavaliers when it comes to offensive rebounds, and commit fewer turnovers and less fouls per game. If the Grizzlies can produce a net positive in two or more of these categories tonight, it could be a significant step toward achieving a victory.
CONTEST THREE POINT SHOTS
Currently, the Cavaliers are second to last in both three point makes and attempts and 24th in 3PFG% in the NBA this season. However, even without arguably their two best shooters in Collin Sexton and Darius Garland, they hit 13 of 30 threes against the Grizzlies, including four threes for Cedi Osman and Larry Nance Jr. Though the Cavaliers are clearly one of the worst teams beyond the arc in the league, Memphis needs to ensure that remains the case by challenging three point attempts.
With De’Anthony Melton, Dillon Brooks, and Kyle Anderson challenging on the perimeter, the Grizzlies also should be confident in their ability to grab long rebounds. With a mindset to turn defense into offense and their success in other aspects of perimeter defense, the Grizzlies need to stay disciplined and challenge as many shots as possible to limit Cleveland’s open looks. This is especially true if Sexton were to be available, as limiting his success from distance will also prove advantageous for Memphis.
One source of confidence for Memphis is that, after a disappointing loss on Thursday, they not only had a satisfying win the next night, but now get to face the Cavaliers again so quickly. As mentioned above, though Cleveland has played well this year, this is one of the few times so far this season this current version of the Grizzlies are arguably the better team in the game. This means that if everyone simply plays to their abilities, Memphis will have a good chance to win. That starts with taking care of the basketball, playing with energy, patiently letting the offense open up looks, and staying disciplined on defense.
Though that is several boxes to check, the Grizzlies have shown multiple times in recent games that they are up to the task. With a bit of extra motivation coming off their loss this past Thursday, the Grizzlies should be ready to earn another needed victory tonight.
FINAL SCORE: Memphis 107- Cleveland 101