As the end of the regular season nears, the Cleveland Cavaliers have one final matchup with another contending team until the games start to matter (sorry Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards). They will test their powerful offense against the elite defense of the Memphis Grizzlies Wednesday night.
Who? Cleveland Cavaliers (46-26) at Memphis Grizzlies (50-21)
When? 8:00 P.M. ET
Where? FedEx Forum, Memphis, Tennessee
Where on my eyeballs? Fox Sports Ohio, NBA League Pass
Enemy blog: Grizzly Bear Blues
The Cavs have won seven of their last eight outings, but have recently have displayed an inconsistent effort within games. While they've been able to turn on the switch when it mattered, they will need focus from the opening tip if they want to come away with a win against the Grizzlies.
Memphis has every tool necessary to hoist the Larry O'Brien trophy in June. Mike Conley is one of the best point guards in the game and will be sure to test Kyrie Irving on both sides of the court. With Conley, Tony Allen and Courtney Lee, the Grizz are able to stop a lot of penetration from the perimeter and one on one play. The Cavs will need to avoid the temptation to play hero ball, because even if you get by the wing defender, you'll still have to contend with Marc Gasol protecting the rim. The only way to beat the Grizzlies is to keep the ball moving and making the defense work.
On the other side of the court, the Cavs need to make sure they keep the Grizzlies out of transition and reduce the number of second chance opportunities they surrender. While the Grizzlies are staunch defensively, it's unlikely that they would be able to come up with enough scoring to keep up with the Cavs if they keep them in the halfcourt.
The Grizzlies are unlikely to go small against the Cavs, as the pairing of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph are the heart of the team. So that likely means lots of minutes for the Cavs trio of Timofey Mozgov, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson with little time for small ball fours James Jones and Shawn Marion.
Keys to the game:
- Assuming Courtney Lee plays, it will send Jeff Green back to the bench where he and Vince Carter form a powerful punch off the pine. While neither player is playing at their most effective levels of their career, they can still be a lot to contend with when they are on their games. Keeping them in check will help keep the Memphis one-dimensional and take some bite out of their attack.
- While Zach Randolph can be a lot to handle in the post, asking him to deal with the mobility of Kevin Love seems unfair. With a few days off since their last game, Love should be well rested and capable of being more of a focal point in the offense. By pulling Z-Bo out of the paint, it'll help create opportunities for cuts and help ensure that the defense isn't set for large parts of each offensive possession.
- The Grizzlies are an established team with a defined style of play. While they've made an effort to add transition buckets to their repertoire, they still like controlling the game and dictating the type of looks the opposition takes. They funnel you to predetermined spots on the court and try to bait teams into taking bad shots. Attacking them early and not allowing them to set up will equate to a much higher likelihood of success.
- Is LeBron James going to try making a statement? If yes, it makes everything a lot easier. If there's one player this season that's shown signs of having a "switch", it'd be him. He still is the catalyst for this team and if he decides to treat this as an important game, rest of the team will follow suit.
Fear the Sword's Fearless Prediction
I think LeBron takes this game seriously and the Cavs are able to come away with a hard fought 102-96 win. Kevin Love finishes with a 20-10-5 line to help lighten the load on everybody.