Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Memphis Grizzlies: Marc Gasol leads elite defense to Cleveland

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

The Cavaliers are coming off a surprising road win against the Wizards. Can they get something going at home against the Grizzlies?

After firing general manager Chris Grant, the Cleveland Cavaliers found some energy and won a close game against the Washington Wizards. Tonight, they'll host the Memphis Grizzlies as they attempt to figure things out as a team.

Who? Cleveland Cavaliers (17-33) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (27-22)

When? 6:00 PM Eastern

Where? Quicken Loans Arena

Where on my eyeballs? Fox Sports Ohio / NBA League Pass

Music?

The Memphis Grizzlies are experiencing a bit of a down year. Or at least they were before Marc Gasol came back. Gasol suffered an MCL sprain and missed two months. When you lose the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, you're probably going to struggle for a bit. And when you're in the Western Conference, you can't afford to struggle for a bit. Right now, the Grizzlies are sitting at 27-22, which has them on the outside looking in at the playoff picture. They're 2 games behind the Dallas Mavericks for the 8th seed in the West. If they played in the Eastern Conference, that 27-22 record would mean that they'd be the 3rd seed. Crazy, right?

Since Marc Gasol came back on January 14th, the Grizzlies have been super awesome. How awesome? Super awesome. They've had the best defense in the NBA since Gasol came back -- yes, even better than the Indiana Pacers. They're allowing just 95.6 points per 100 possessions in that span. Memphis' offense still isn't very good, but that doesn't matter when you play defense like they do. They have the 5th best net rating in the NBA since Gasol returned and are playing at an elite level. My point is that Memphis is potentially a lot better than their 27-22 record makes them seem.

The fact that the Grizzlies are currently on pace to miss the playoffs in the West just speaks to the ridiculous difference between the two conferences. The Cavs are 17-33, a total mess, and are just 4 and a half games out of the playoffs in the East. Right now there's no reason to think that the Cavs will make the playoffs -- but there's a lot of time left. It's undeniable that this team is super dysfunctional and are a long way from figuring things out. I'm just saying that if they were to somehow get it together, the playoffs aren't out of reach. It's weird, because it probably wouldn't make this a satisfying season. But the team needs to figure out what they're doing and work towards building a consistent system and culture. That's why I'd be very surprised if the Cavs "blow it up" or "tank." They'll probably just keep plugging along and try to find things that work.

It'll be interesting to see how the Cavs attack the Grizzlies defense. I'm sure that Memphis will attempt to limit Kyrie Irving as much as possible. If he plays like he did against the Wizards, that should help. He facilitated the offense and made his teammates better. That's what he needs to do, especially against great defenses.

Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao will have their work cut out for them. The Cavs' defense has been all sorts of terrible lately -- easily the worst in the league for the past month or so. At this point, I'm just watching to see if they start to put together something consistent. I don't know.

For more on the Memphis Grizzlies, head over to Grizzly Bear Blues.

Fear the Sword's Fearless Prediction.

Grizzlies are really good. They're also a form of bear. Bears beat Cavaliers, 92-84.

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