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Memphis Grizzlies vs. Cleveland Cavaliers Game Preview

MERRY GRIZZMAS!

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Memphis Grizzlies v Chicago Bulls Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

WHO: Memphis Grizzlies (0-0) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (0-0)

WHEN: 7:00 PM CT

WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee

HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Bally Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis

INJURY REPORT:

MEMPHIS - Dillon Brooks (Hand, Out)

CLEVELAND - Dean Wade (Ankle, doubtful), Dylan Windler (Hip, Out)

GAMBLING INFO (Via DraftKings):

Grizzlies (-110) favored -7.5, O/U 216.5, Memphis -310 Cleveland +245 money line


We at GBB wish you and yours a very merry Grizzmas! It is a holiday for fans of the Memphis Grizzlies - and most NBA fans - as the Association kicks in to high gear after a double header of opening night action Tuesday. Between the expected leaps for Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. and the upward trajectory of the franchise the last two years, there are plenty of reasons to rejoice. The Grizzlies remain a fun team in the here and now, prepared to be a tough out at worst on most nights while also boasting an impressive war chest of future draft picks and potentially tradable contracts that enables Grizzlies brass, led by Zach Kleiman, to decide for themselves when the time to go “all-in” will be.

That almost certainly will not be tonight - and that is quite alright. For beyond Morant and JJJ, Desmond Bane/De’Anthony Melton/Kyle Anderson/Steven Adams are in line to be major contributors on both ends of the floor for Memphis. The Grizzlies also return talented bigs Xavier Tillman and Brandon Clarke as well as gifted reserve point guard Tyus Jones. Add in the Jitty One John Konchar or the 2021 upside swing that is Ziaire Williams, and there is a rotation that could quite easily overachieve this season.

Again.

It starts with game one against the Cavaliers - and while Memphis is favored by three possessions, it is important for the Grizzlies to start this season strong. For from this contest Ja Morant and company head out west for a tough early-season west coast swing. The Lakers, the Clippers, the Trail Blazers, and the Warriors await...and that could pretty easily be a 1-3 trip. If Memphis gets upset by a young and scrappy Cavs team, the season could start off with 4 or more losses.

That’d be unfortunate, to say the least.

Here is how the team can try their best to avoid that.

How to slow Sexton

Cleveland Cavaliers v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

With Dillon Brooks out, Memphis is lacking their best (or at least hardest working) perimeter defender. That should make Grizzlies fans a bit nervous night in and night out - the willingness of Brooks to be the guy that takes on the opposing team’s greatest weapon will be missed. Who starts this game for Memphis will help answer this question. If Head Coach Taylor Jenkins’ “Dress Rehearsal” starters from the final preseason game against Chicago hold, that would mean Morant/Bane/Anderson/Jackson Jr./Adams. Could Anderson, a player better at the “4” at this stage of his career than on the wing, be able to hang with the short and quick Sexton? Would Desmond Bane be able to test his sophomore year in the NBA growth early and take on that matchup? Or will Jenkins make a switch, and let Melton (who had a heck of a preseason) get the start because of his frame and ability that makes him a more natural pairing against Sexton?

Options are nice to have, and a combination of “all the above” is perhaps most likely. But between starting and finish the game, with all the minutes inbetween, we will get out first look at trying to “replace” Memphis’ resident villain. It’s a good matchup to try out those theories/game plans, as Sexton is talented but not a Donovan Mitchell-esque scorer that will surely gash the Grizzlies. Easing in to life without Dillon Brooks is a good idea.

Matching the size of the Cavs

Chicago Bulls v Cleveland Cavaliers Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Assuming the Cavaliers start their star young big man Evan Mobley alongside freshly signed Jarrett Allen, Memphis is in for an early test of their rebounding prowess. Steven Adams is almost as good of a rebounder as Jonas Valanciunas (almost), and Jaren Jackson Jr. has clearly prioritized that area of his game for improvement. But both Mobley and Allen are more naturally suited for the life of a big than Jaren - Jackson Jr. is learning how to play the role of big man, whereas Mobley and Allen are very much those types of players. Jaren would much rather create off the dribble of shoot the three than body on the block. And that difference in skill set could help Jackson Jr. and the Grizzlies offense create essential space for Ja Morant and others to do their thing. Yet while Allen and Mobley have not played much together, their size and abilty make a theoretical nightmare for opposing front courts.

Don’t forget Xavier Tillman and Brandon Clarke either, or whoever plays the 4 and 5 beyond Jaren and Steven. While the starting bigs for Cleveland are challenging, their reserves are not as athletic or as prone to movement as Clarke and Tillman. Those two need to win their individual matchups for the Grizzlies to take this game.

The Prediction

Draft Kings has Memphis as a 7.5 point favorite in this game...and with Brooks out, that feels a tad high. The Cavs will be focused defensively. and without Dillon and Jonas Valanciunas the Grizzlies offense may endure some growing pains more than expcted. But the problem for Cleveland is they have no one to defend Ja Morant. Look for various screens and sets from multiple types of actions to prioritize getting Ja to the basket, where he’s his best, and late in the game will force Cleveland to make tough choices about who to take away.

Memphis will pull away then - but Cleveland will cover. And with these two defensive squads in action, take the under.

Memphis 109, Cleveland 105

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