Who: Memphis Grizzlies vs Cleveland Cavaliers
When: Friday, March 8th, 6:30 PM CST
Where: Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH
Records: Memphis (40-19), Cleveland (21-40)
Media: SportSouth, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Forums: 3 Shades of Blue, Grizzlies Message Board
Memphis heads to Cleveland to kick off a back-to-back road trip on the heels of yet another “grit ‘n’ grind” battle, this time against the Portland Trailblazers. Again, the Grizzlies win was fueled by a second half surge, as they outscored the opposition 53-35 in the final two periods. Games like Wednesday night’s triumph have become the norm in the Bluff City, but one has to wonder how much the Grizzlies’ apparent flair for the grind-it-out theatrics is going to wear them down the long run. We’re about to find out just how enduring the team can be as they’ll be navigating a tough stretch consisting of 3 straight back-to-backs with 5 of the 6 games on the road.
Cleveland is far from the softball opponent that their 21-40 record would suggest. For starters, any team with a stud like Kyrie Irving at the helm could give any opponent fits at any time. The Cavs had the Knicks on the ropes a few nights ago, only to let the game slip away as the New York rallied around the loss of Carmelo Anthony to overcome a 22 point difference. The Cavs then picked themselves up and won a tight one over the Utah Jazz. They did however have a tough time dealing with Utah’s frontline, as they gave up 16 points to Paul Millsap, 12 rebounds and 4 blocks to Derrick Favors, and surrendered an 8-11 shooting night to Enes Kanter.
Expected Starting Lineups:
Mike Conley vs Kyrie Irving:
Last time out, the Grizzlies played host to the Cavs who trotted jilted ex-Grizz, Jeremy Pargo out as their point guard. Mike Conley will not be so lucky this time as he’s about to face Kyrie Irving tonight. Irving has basically done everything in his power to firmly entrench himself in the conversation as a bonafide star. He claimed this year’s All-Star weekend for his own as he showed off in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night, claimed the title as 3 Point Shootout champion on Saturday night, and proved he belonged with the big boys in the All-Star game, itself, that Sunday. Conley has been playing pretty good basketball, but “Uncle Drew” is on another level. There’s talk of the Cavs “shutting down” Kyrie again with knee pain, but until further notice…
Tony Allen vs Wayne Ellington:
Dion Waiters caught a killer version of the flu and has been out of commission for the past two games. He’s considered day-to-day and is listed as questionable for tonight’s game. Which would hand the reins over to our good friend Wayne Ellington for his third straight start. “Wayne’s World” has been enjoying an increased workload since joining the Cavaliers mix, and is averaging nearly 10 points per game on 45% shooting since the trade. I don’t however expect him to pull any fast ones over Tony Allen who has plenty of practice hours against him under his belt.
Tayshaun Prince vs Alonzo Gee:
Tayshaun struggled with his shot against Portland, but had the benefit of an extended cushion between him and the defender when Lionel Hollins slid him up to the four. Brevin Knight consistently noted down the stretch that this was going to come into play at some point, as sure enough it did as he sank a critical jumper to give the Grizzlies the lead with 4 minutes to play. Like Tayshaun, Alonzo Gee makes his living on the defensive end of the floor, so they’re really a push in that sense. Since the fresh Prince’s numbers are better across the board:
Ed Davis vs Tristan Thompson:
With uncertainty surrounding the Zach Randolph-ankle situation and the Darrell Arthur-neck/back situation, I guess the safest bet would be to assume Ed Davis into the starting role again. He didn’t quite make the most of his increased minutes against Portland, but while he was in Toronto, he had a very nice game against the Cavs to the tune of 8-12 shooting with 9 rebounds. Regardless of who plays in the 4 spot for the Grizzlies, Tristan Thompson is an athletic freak at the position who is averaging a near double double on the year. He’s likely to have the edge over either a limited Zbo/Arthur or less established Davis.
Marc Gasol vs Tyler Zeller:
Marc Gasol continues to prove himself as one of the most well versed big men in the game today. Against the Blazers he posted 23 points to go along with 12 rebounds in what was his third 20+ output in the last four games. In the lone sub-20 performance within that stretch he dropped 11 dimes. I could cherry-pick numbers all I want, but the fact of the matter is that when the offense goes through Marc Gasol at the elbow, good things happen. Not to mention he’s the quarterback of our very good defense. Not to be dismissive of Tyler Zeller, but I think that about sums up this matchup.
The “bench by committe” approach has been faring the Grizzlies quite well to this point, as Jerryd Bayless was the bench hero of the Grizzlies last rodeo. Between Quincy Pondexter, Jerryd Bayless, Austin Daye, Darrell Arthur, and even Tony Wroten, anyone on the bench is prone to being the difference maker on a given night. Credit the hard-work in their preparation, and Lionel Hollins’ coaching staff for having these guys ready to step in. As for the Cavaliers, they’ve got Mr. Marreese Speights waiting in the wings for just over 21 minutes a game, who was at a time a member of the “potential Grizzlies bench heroics” crew. Speights, like Ellington, has made the most of his time in Cleveland thus far as he’s averaging 12.7 points and 6.3 rebounds, both career bests, since joining his new team.
Cavs: The Blog