The Cavaliers sputtered in their first game after the All-Star break in a loss to the Washington Wizards. The first cracks showed as LeBron eschewed his reeling teammates late to try to will the Cavs to a win. We’ll see how they bounce back from their first real adversity against the lowly Memphis Grizzlies.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (34-23) at Memphis Grizzlies (18-38)
When: 8 p.m.
Where: FedEx Forum, Memphis, Tennessee
Where on my eyeballs? Fox Sports Ohio, NBA League Pass, Fox Sports Go
Cavaliers injuries: Kevin Love (OUT - hand)
Grizzlies injuries: Mike Conley (OUT - achilles), Chandler Parsons (OUT - illness), Mario Chalmers (QUESTIONABLE - ankle)
Three keys to the game:
- Will LeBron trust his teammates in a tight spot? He functionally played one-on-five down the stretch against the Warriors (to mostly great effect, by the way). Nobody seemed particularly confident, so it makes sense that he would try to take over and just win the game. Developing that trust is key, though. Playing that way may generate buckets against Washington, but when it ultimately matters, it’ll be a detriment. LeBron will have to empower his teammates.
- On that note, George Hill was fairly awful against the Wizards. He was 2-10 from the field, only managed three assists to three turnovers and failed to make a single three-pointer. Hill has not looked quite as good as Cavaliers fans would like offensively, and the Wizards dared him to be aggressive on Thursday. Defensively, he looked worse than he really was due to Tomas Satoransky being on absolute fire. I wouldn’t worry long-term, but he could use a good high-efficiency outing.
- The Cavaliers missed Channing Frye on Thursday. The Wizards blitzed pick and rolls hard and dared Tristan Thompson and Larry Nance to beat them out of the short roll. Both failed, and LeBron was forced to close the game playing center. That’s fine offensively, but it hurt them on defense. When Kevin Love returns, that will be an easy fix, but in the meantime, they’re going to have to get creative to create space when teams dare Cavaliers centers to beat them.
Tyreke Evans absolutely destroyed the Cavaliers in the last meeting between these two teams. He dropped 31 points on 10-20 shooting and routinely abused whoever the Cavs stuck on him. J.R. Smith and Rodney Hood will be asked to take on the challenge of slowing down the Grizzlies’ best perimeter threat. Let’s see how they do.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction
The Cavaliers aren’t in a great spot, but they’ve got to show up against a Grizzlies team that has lost seven straight games. Cavaliers win 114-107.