Coming off of two straight wins, the Cleveland Cavaliers look to extend their lead in the Eastern Conference as they host the Memphis Grizzlies. With the Toronto Raptors falling to the Houston Rockets Sunday night, the Cavs have an opportunity to widen the gap to 3.5 games between the two teams. The Grizzlies are coming off a bad loss to the Phoenix Suns on their home court and will be looking to avenge their opening night loss against the Cavs.
Who? Cleveland Cavaliers (44-17) vs Memphis Grizzlies (37-25)
When? 7 p.m.
Where? Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland Ohio
Where on my eyeballs? Fox Sports Ohio, NBA League Pass
Enemy blog: Grizzly Bear Blues
The Grizzlies have showed a lot of resiliency this season despite this season going far worse than they planned for. Mike Conley is having a down season, shooting a career-worst 42 percent from the floor and below his career average from three. Marc Gasol is out for the year with a foot injury and the team lost it's most reliable perimeter threat at the deadline in Courtney Lee. Despite all of that, this team has still won six of its nine games since the trade deadline and their 59.7 winning percentage would be good enough for third in the Eastern Conference. With all that's gone against them this season, they still are well coached and can't be taken lightly by the Cavs.
Over the last two seasons, the Cavs have experienced a lot of success against the Grizzlies by utilizing Kevin Love. Zach Randolph isn't comfortable guarding him out on the perimeter and his versatility presents lots of match up problems. Randolph is still a lot to handle, despite getting up there in age, so this might be a game where the Cavs benefit from using a more traditional lineup, rather than have LeBron James play at power forward; unless of course Memphis decides to deploy small ball lineups.
The point guard matchup between Kyrie Irving and Mike Conley will be an interesting one. Despite Conley having a down year, as previously mentioned, he still is the engine that makes the Grizzlies offense go and is as good of a point guard defender as there is in the NBA. He's a composed veteran that will test Irving when he's trying to initiate the offense. Tests like these are important for Irving as the Cavs are starting to expand his role and give him more duties that would traditionally be assigned to a point guard.
Fear the Sword's Fearless Prediction:
The last two games seem to indicate a renewed focus from the Cavs, but it should be mentioned it was against two teams they have bad blood within the Washington Wizards and Boston Celtics. So the question is, are they starting to turn it on down the stretch like they did last season, or was that just a glimpse of what they can do when they are engaged. I think (read: hope) the team has a sense of urgency now and realize that they need to start momentum, so I'm going to say the Cavs blow out Memphis 112-94.