Who: Memphis Grizzlies vs Cleveland Cavaliers
When: Monday, November 26, 7:00 PM CST
Where: FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
Records: Memphis (9-2), Cleveland (3-10)
Media: SportSouth, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Forums: 3 Shades of Blue, Grizzlies Message Board
Memphis shook off the letdown that was their performance against the Nuggets with yet another strong showing against a “media darling” opponent in its last contest. The Grizzlies posed the disoriented Lakers with a bit more than they bargained for, this past Friday night. The Lakers were never really out of striking distance, but timely passing from Marc Gasol, and an unflappable display of poise from the ever-improving Mike Conley helped the Grizzlies keep them at bay every time they were able to cut it close. Not enough can be said about how remarkably the members of the starting five have been executing within their roles. The “Zoo Crew,” on the other hand, showed signs of recovery from a poor performance in the first half, but also displayed that they are more of a work in progress than they seemed at the start of the year. The ability to give the starters a few minutes to freshen up is paramount, and in spite of the fact that they did so, they were far from perfect. The unit was guilty of cheating off the Lakers’ shooters far too much, and leaving the window open for them to tighten up the game. It seems likely that Hollins will field a full-on second unit with Darrell Arthur healthy again. Speaking of, DA played his first minutes since that fateful Thunder series, sinking his only field goal attempt: his patented 20 foot jumper. More importantly, he walked off the court in one piece afterwards.
Cleveland has been a bit shaken by the injury to rising star point guard, Kyrie Irving, who is expected to miss somewhere in the ballpark of a month. The Cavs began the year pulling out a pretty decent victory over what I hate to admit is a very good Clippers team. From that point on, things began to unravel. They plummeted to a 2-8 record before the discovery of Kyrie Irving’s broken finger. Then shockingly, the insertion of Grizzlies alum, Jeremy Pargo, into the starting lineup catapulted the team to its first victory in seven games. One could hardly believe that this is a sustainable solution, though, and the Cavs likely lack the depth to even tread water until Kyrie’s return, and they’ve dropped the last two against Orlando and Miami. Barring some sort of Christmas miracle in Cleveland, they’re looking like early candidates for the Nerlens Noel sweepstakes. To be fair, the Cavs played Lebron James and the Heat straight up on Saturday night, only to have the game ripped away from them by a late three pointer from the hands of Ray Allen.
Expected Starting Lineups:
Mike Conley vs Jeremy Pargo:
Jeremy Pargo may not be the best point guard in the world, but he does have the tenedncy to catch his opponent by surprise. Just ask Russell Westbrook, who he absolutely locked down in the home opener last year, and rallied against for 15 points and 7 dimes. Or if you’d like, ask the Philadelphia 76ers whose heads he dropped 28 on! This being said, we know for a fact that of all people he will not catch Mike Conley by surprise. The two sparred in practice all last season, and I’m sure Mike knows exactly what he’s up against and how to stop him.
Tony Allen vs Dion Waiters:
Tony Allen played himself a very efficient game against LA, and more importantly played his characteristic harrassing defense on Kobe Bryant. Don’t let Kobe’s 30 points fool you, two hand-in-face threes and 11 free throws go a long way in deceiving one’s perception of the defender’s performance. Neon Dion has been scoring at a decent clip, but with the shooting percentages of a rec-league child. He flashes some stellar potential, but makes rookie mistakes abound. If there’s anything Tony excels at, it is this type of matchup.
Rudy Gay vs Alonzo Gee:
Rudy Gay has excelled with a more finely carved out role in the team’s offense, leading the team in scoring at a smidge over 20 ppg, and sinking one from beyond the arc in the past 7 contests. He’s also getting after it on the defensive end, averaging a block and a steal and a half per game. Alonzo Gee is a pretty decent player, who has held down the starting job, but moreso for lack of stellar competition. Gee is a sneaky good defender, though, that could totally take Rudy off his game on a given night. Still:
Zach Randolph vs Tristan Thompson:
Zbo has been back to his usual Zbo self this season, having yet to record a stat-line short of a double-double. However, he’s looking better than ever as a fit in the offense, as he has accepted the fact that the ball does not have to go through him on every possession, through realization that he can still get his by attacking the boards with reckless abandon. Tristan Thompson was a bit of a surprise, as he was picked a bit early at 4th overall last year. He is slightly undersized, but boasts some proficiency on the boards and above the rim with his athleticism. However, as is the case with most young athleticism-reliant post players, he is wildly inconsistent and prone to picking up fouls. Given Randolph’s proficiency at bodying up the opposition, Thompson could find himself in plenty of foul trouble tonight.
Marc Gasol vs Anderson Varejao:
If I had to choose a matchup of the night, this one would be it. Both pivot men have been enjoying a very good season thus far, doing what they have always done best, but executing even better than advertised. Marc has seen a slight dip in his rebounding production, but has been passing the ball like a wizard from all over the paint and high post. Our offense is a well oiled machine when it runs through him. Varejao is leading the league in rebounding right now, and serves as a wildly frustrating draw as the guy defending you. What is unexpected is the way he has been scoring the ball, as well. After missing the better half of the past two seasons, he’s rebounded (no pun intended) with a well expanded game, as a real bright spot for this otherwise bleak Cavalier team.
The “Zoo Crew” is working on it, but has yet to get fully back on track. Quincy Pondexter has by and large been the Grizzlies’ sixth man, oftentimes playing as many or more minutes than starter, Tony Allen. Additionally, playing against Jeremy Pargo reminds me of just how thankful I am to have Jerryd Bayless on the roster. It’s not saying much (or anything really), but he’s the best backup point guard we have had in years. Darrell Arthur finally made it out on the court, Friday night, and I’d love to see him get out some more against the Cavs. The Cavs’ bench is nothing to write home about, with its lone weapon being Daniel Gibson. Gibson is one of few remnants from the Lebron days, and can get hot from the arc in a hurry. That being said, he’s known to be inconsistent, and is battling soreness in his elbow, which kept him out of the Cavs’ back to back games against Philadelphia. If Tristan Thompson ends up in foul trouble against Randolph, we could see a lot of Tyler Zeller in this one, a long, athletic rookie big man, who has played pretty well thus far, and should match up well against our frontline.