WHEN: 6:00 PM CT
WHERE: Rocket Mortgage Field House in Cleveland, Ohio
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Bally Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Ziaire Williams (Doubtful, ankle), Kyle Anderson/Shaq Buchanan/Dillon Brooks/John Konchar/De’Anthony Melton/Xavier Tillman (Health and Safety Protocols), Tyrell Terry (Non-COVID illness)
CLEVELAND: Ricky Rubio (Out, knee), Collin Sexton (Out, knee), Isaac Okoro (Out, elbow), Rajon Rondo (Out, COVID Protocols), Cedi Osman (Out, Health and Safety Protocols)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, Killian Tillie, Jaren Jackson Jr., Steven Adams
CLEVELAND: Darius Garland, Kevin Pangos, Lauri Markkanen, Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen
The Memphis Grizzlies will meet the Cleveland Cavaliers for their final regular season matchup, as the Grizzlies took the season opener in Memphis 132-121. While this will be the team’s lone trip to Cleveland, it will Ja’s first of two trips the season. Morant will almost surely be heading to the All-Star Game, while Desmond Bane should be joining him for the Rookie-Sophomore game and if the NBA is paying any attention, the 3 Point Contest.
These two teams are the surprise squads in their respective conferences. Memphis was projected to at least be in the play-in while the roster makeup of the Cavs did not lead many to believe they would be this successful — without Collin Sexton, especially. J.B. Bickerstaff currently has his group as the 5 seed in the Eastern Conference, ahead of the Sixers, Celtics, Hawks and Knicks.
Darius Garland practiced for the first time since clearing Health and Safety Protocols on Monday. While he is expected to return, his minutes could be limited as he returns to game shape. Also, while the chance is small, Dillon Brooks and De’Anthony Melton could clear protocols and fly to Cleveland to join the team, although it seems the Thursday game back at home against Detroit seems more likely.
Cleveland is depleted in the backcourt, but have two young studs in the front court. This will be no easy game for the Grizzlies who want to dominate the glass and paint scoring.
Keys to the game.
Man the middle
Jarrett Allen is in the midst of a career year while rookie Evan Mobley looks to be every bit the best player in his draft class. The starting lineup features another 7 footer with Lauri Markkanen on the wing with Kevin Love doing his thing off the bench. If this were any other team, Coach Jenkins might consider starting Jarrett Culver on the wing after his wildly productive thirty minutes in Brooklyn, but Tillie is every bit as good as Lauri and his size will help the Grizz.
Steven Adams, Jaren Jackson Jr., Killian Tillie and Brandon Clarke will need to be extremely active on the boards in this one. Rebounding were major parts of the wins against Phoenix and Brooklyn. I would go as far to say, whichever team wins the rebound battle in this one, wins the game.
Lean on the two-man game
Chris Paul and Devin Booker. Maybe Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell? Then Ja Morant and Desmond Bane. Top 3 backcourts in the NBA right now? The Cavs have no answers on roster for this dynamic duo. They will be on the second night of a back to back, but I have a feeling they won’t care. Bane is lethal on the road and Morant has scored 30 in four straight.
While the front court will be in a physical fight, Morant, Bane, Tyus Jones and yes, Jarrett Culver will have to be better than the opposing backcourt by a large margin. 60+ from the starting backcourt should get it done again, but this will be dependent on the teams ability to rebound and get out and run. Cleveland has much taller trees for Ja to attempt to try and finish through, although he may just try to jump over them (again) instead.
You would’ve like Ja to rest the entire fourth in Brooklyn with a back to back coming up, but the Grizzlies seem locked in at the moment and I don’t expect that to change. One of the benefits of young legs. Defense travels and for some reason so does Desmond Bane’s jumper. I picked the Memphis Grizzlies to lose against Phoenix, but this time I believe they squeeze out a tight one.
Grizzlies 107 Cleveland 103
Whatever the over/under is, I would be tempted to take the under.
Ja Morant has been cashing the Points+Rebounds+Assist overs while betting on Bane to get first basket continues to hit.