Who: Memphis Grizzlies (27-22) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (17-33)
When: Sunday, February 9th 5:00 PM CST
Where: Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH
Watch and Listen: Sportsouth, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Discuss: 3SOB on Twitter / 3SOB Forum, Grizzlies Message Boards
The Cavs are a mess, man. Things were supposed to be turning around for the better in Cleveland… as the sage wisdom of a television show intro once told me, “Cleveland rocks,” right? (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, the video above says it all). Anyways, after winning the honors of first pick in the 2013 draft, it was supposed to go down as their last trip to the lottery for some time. Then, after starting the year on the wrong foot, they traded for Luol Deng; a move that was supposed to catapult them towards playoff contention in the thinned out eastern conference. If you’re catching my tone, not much has really panned out the way it was supposed to for the Cavs. A 4-10 record with Deng in the lineup suggests that he hasn’t been the solution, and heads have begun to roll, with GM Chris Grant taking the fall last week. The Grizzlies, with last night’s barnburner of a win under their belt could use as many as they can get their hands on, so they should be salivating over this one.
Nick Calathes vs Kyrie Irving
Oof. On paper, this one’s a doozy. To follow up last season’s sheer domination of all things All-Star, Kyrie was voted the starting point guard for the eastern conference team this time around. The result has fallen under a fair amount of fire due to his lack of team success on the year, along with a slight reduction in productivity across the board, but he’s still a game-changing offensive talent that demands the full attention of opposing defenses. He’s incredibly quick, has yo-yo handles, and can shoot the lights out of a building on any given night. Good luck, Nick.
Courtney Lee vs Jarrett Jack
Jarrett Jack is starting? Good for him. Jack is a talented player in the middle of carving out a role for himself as “that guy,” who plays alongside a dynamic, scoring point guard. Save a handful of mishaps and lapses on the defensive end over the last few years, he has done a solid job of establishing himself as such. That is, until this season of course. Seriously, basically anything that the Cavs have touched has touched to stone. Jack’s field goal percentage has dropped below 40% this year, and he is awarded the burden of being covered by Courtney Lee, tonight. Lee has been a beautiful fit on the Grizzlies’ roster, and was a big help again last night. He shot the only team free throw on the whole evening — and it came off of a defensive three second call.
Tayshaun Prince vs Luol Deng
Luol Deng is the newest member of the Cavaliers, and he is reportedly unhappy with his new arrangement. To be entirely fair on the matter, it’s pretty tough to stick your neck out and blame the guy. According to Mitch Lawrence the New York Daily News, “Deng recently told one close friend, ‘the stuff going on in practice would never be tolerated by the coaching staff or the front office back in Chicago. It’s a mess.’” Deng has reportedly stepped forward and refuted the reports, but where there is smoke, there is fire. On an unrelated note, he missed the Cavs’ last game with flu-like symptoms, but I’d be surprised if he sits out another one. On the good guys’ side, Tayshaun Prince continues to struggle offensively. He put up his second straight “0-fer” performance last night and was restricted to just 10 minutes of play.
Zach Randolph vs Tristan Thompson
Zach Randolph may not have put up the statline that we’re used to seeing out of him last night, but that doesn’t mean it was all that bad. Mr. 20-10, the new franchise leader in offensive rebounds, instead showed up in the form of “Mr. 20-6,” but did so on 62.5% shooting with 2 steals and 3 blocks. I’ll take that any day. He’s lining up against Tristan Thompson tonight, who is a lengthy, rangy power forward with a nice upside, but lacking in the body strength to keep Zbo down for the night. I would certainly not be surprised to see Randolph replicate his performance from yesterday in a matchup like this one.
Marc Gasol vs Anderson Varejao
Marc Gasol’s recent lack of aggression had been a major point of discussion leading into last night, so it was nice to see him rebound in a sense (no pun intended), as he found himself in the triple-double flirtation zone, amassing 8 points, 8 boards, and 7 helpers to one turnover. To be fair, though, that’s just the good. However, shooting-wise he’s having a very difficult time getting his groove back after the knee injury, which is a trend that continued into last night’s game (4-14). He’s met by Anderson Varejao, a relentlessly energetic rebounder extraordinaire, who is hampered by recovery from a knee injury of his own (hyperextended knee), at the moment.
Dion Waiters’ place in the rotation finds him on the bench this season. Which is something that I’m not sure is sitting all that well in his eyes, but the “instant offense microwave” appears to be the perfect role for him at this point in his career. He is currently scoring 14.2 points per game, leading a Cavaliers bench that stands at 6th in the league in scoring. He’s not alone on the attack, most notably joined by CJ Miles who is prone to go off at any time, having scored 15+ points in a night on 11 occasions so far this season. The Grizzlies’ bench was a strong positive in the +/- against the Hawks, with sound contributions from Darius Morris (+20, 3 steals), James Johnson (8 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals), Ed Davis and Kosta Koufos (a combined 10 rebounds in 19 minutes), and Mike Miller (two huuuuge three-pointers late in the third quarter).