The potentially shorthanded Cleveland Cavaliers will look to pick up an elusive road win against a Western Conference opponent.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (28-17) at Memphis Grizzlies (30-13)
Where: Memphis, TN - FedExForum
When: 8 p.m. EST
TV: Bally Sports Ohio, Bally Sports+, NBA League Pass
Spread (via DraftKings): Cavs +7.5
Opposing blog: Grizzly Bear Blues
Cavs’ expected starting lineup: Darius Garland / Caris LeVert / Isaac Okoro / Evan Mobley / Jarrett Allen
Cavs’ injury report: Donovan Mitchell (OUT - groin), Dean Wade (OUT - shoulder sprain), Dylan Windler (OUT - ankle sprain), Isaiah Mobley (OUT - G League)
Grizzlies’ expected starting lineup: Ja Morant / Desmond Bane / Dillon Brooks / Jaren Jackson Jr. / Steven Adams
Grizzlies’ injury report: Danny Green (OUT - knee), Kennedy Chandler (OUT - G League), Jake LaRavia (OUT - G League), Kenneth Lofton Jr. (OUT - G League), Xavier Tillman (OUT - G League), Vince Williams Jr. (OUT - G League)
What to watch for
The storming Grizzlies. The Cavs aren’t playing the Grizzlies at the right time as Memphis is in the midst of a 10-game winning streak. The Grizzlies have done this by being dominant defensively as they’ve posted a 106.5 defensive rating during that stretch which is good for best in the league in that timeframe.
Jarren Jackson Jr. has been a big reason why that is the case. In his last ten games, Jackson is averaging 3.7 blocks and 1 steal per game during that stretch. The fourth-year big is blocking 6.3% of opponent field-goal attempts when he’s on the floor which is the second best in the league during that stretch.
As a team, they have done a great job of protecting the rim as opponents are finishing just 57.3% of their looks which is good for the lowest percentage in the league during this winning streak.
Not to be outdone by their defense, the offense has been great as well as they’ve posted a 119.9 offensive rating during the most recent winning streak. The two-headed monster of Ja Morant and Desmond Bane have carried them offensively. Morant has been sensational during his last ten as he’s averaging 28.9 points and 8.1 assists on 53.7% shooting from the field while Bane is contributing 20.4 points, 6 rebounds and 4.1 assists on .488/.490/.778 shooting splits.
This is a team firing on all cylinders.
The front court battle. Memphis has done a good job of defending the rim, but they are allowing a high volume of shots in the paint. During the win steak, opponents are attempting 37% of their shots at the rim which is the fourth-highest percentage in the league. Finishing inside with Steven Adams and Jackson is a tall task, but could be one Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen are up to.
Allen and Mobley have been playing some good basketball recently. They combined to finish all 15 of their attempts at the rim in Monday afternoon’s win over the New Orleans Pelicans. Although it will be more difficult with Memphis’s defensive personnel, the Cavs will need a similar effort tonight if they’re going to steal a win.
Ja vs. Darius. Morant and Darius Garland will always be linked due to their places in the 2019 draft.
While Garland is having anther All-Star caliber season, Morant is ascending into the upper echelon of stars in the league. He’s the face of one of the best teams in the West for the second year in a row while being one of the most entertaining players. His jaw-dropping athleticism makes him a must watch every night.
Morant has been the clear cut best point guard and overall best player in that draft class. There is nothing Garland can do in this game to change that. But, for one night he has the ability to be the better player and will need to be for the Cavs to have a shot at winning. This would be a good time for Garland to exorcise his road demons.
Stealing a win. There’s never an opportune time to lose your best player. But, potentially being without Donovan Mitchell over the next handful of games will be difficult. The Cavs’ next four games are all against current playoff teams with back-to-back contests against the Golden State Warriors and Milwaukee Bucks.
The Cavs will have a tough time winning any of their upcoming games without Mitchell in the lineup given their opponents. In order to survive in the standings until his return, they will need to steal a game or two in this stretch. Maybe, they can keep this one close throughout and steal this one late.