Cavaliers Preview Game #55

Cavaliers vs GrizzliesMemphis Grizzlies (15-40) vs
Cleveland Cavaliers (43-11)
Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
7:00 PM EST

Say goodbye to the Q, Cavaliers, because after tonight’s game, 8 of the next 10 games will be on the road. After tonight, the next 7 games will be against teams who would be in the playoffs if the season ended today. These things will balance out, as the Cavaliers will play 8 of 9 at home in the Q after this stretch of 8 out of 10 on the road, but regardless, a game like tonight’s, at home against a weak team, is a game the Cavaliers absolutely cannot slip up in if they want to secure the #1 seed. This game just screams trap game, but the good news is that so far this year the Cavaliers have been able to resist being lulled to sleep by trap games, and tonight they will try to once more find the motivation to come out strong and put away a team they should be able to beat soundly.   

Projected Starting Lineups

Memphis Grizzlies:

-G Mike Conley (9.2 ppg, 3.7 apg, 0.8 spg, 13.07 PER)
-G O.J. Mayo (19.4 ppg, 2.9 apg, .385 3P%, 15.49 PER)
-F Rudy Gay (18.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.6 apg, 15.03 PER)
-F Hakim Warrick (11.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 0.5 bpg, 16.43 PER)
-C Marc Gasol (10.9 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 1.0 bpg, 15.93 PER)

Key Reserves: Darko Milicic, Darrell Arthur, Quinton Ross, Greg Buckner, Darius Miles

Injuries: Mike Wilks (out)

Cleveland Cavaliers:

-G Mo Williams (17.6 ppg, 4.2 apg, 0.9 spg, 17.28 PER)
-G Delonte West (12.6 ppg, 3.5 apg, .427 3P%, 16.28 PER)
-F LeBron James (28.7 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 7.1 apg, 32.16 PER)
-F Ben Wallace (3.0 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.4 bpg, 12.32 PER)
-C Zydrunas Ilgauskas (13.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 1.2 bpg, 19.28 PER)

Key Reserves: Anderson Varejao, Daniel Gibson, Wally Szczerbiak, JJ Hickson

Injuries: Sasha Pavlovic (out), Eric Snow (out)

Team Efficiency Stats

Memphis Grizzlies:

-Off (93.5 ppg, 39.4 rpg, .448 FG%, .754 FT%, 16.7 apg, Eff-100.3, Rank-28)
-Def (99.7 ppg, 40.1 rpg, .474 FG%, Eff-106.7, Rank-22)

Cleveland Cavaliers:

-Off (100.9 ppg, 41.8 rpg, .474 FG%, .752 FT%, 20.1 apg, Eff-110.1, Rank-3)
-Def (90.8 ppg, 38.6 rpg, .427 FG%, Eff-98.5, Rank-2)

Previous Matchups

  1. Cleveland 102 at Memphis 87 – 01/13/09 [box]

Game Notes

The last time the Cavaliers played the Grizzlies, they thumped them only to have Delonte West go down in the next game against the Bulls. This time, they play the Grizzlies one game after getting him back. It makes you feel like the whole thing has come full circle and now Delonte is back and the Cavaliers can get back to normal. They sure looked that way in their last game against the Pistons. However, we’ve yet to see how well Delonte can come back after playing in a game 2 days prior. We’ll see if he still has his energy and legs beneath him in this game. If he does, this could be a long game for the Grizzlies.

Not that there isn’t some promise within this Grizzlies team. Rudy Gay is a phenomenal scorer and he’s always dangerous. Rookie OJ Mayo has been sensational and is showing an offensive game that is far more developed for the NBA game than most scouts thought it would be at this point. Then there’s Mike Conley. The former OSU star has not been an instant success in Memphis, but lately his game has been coming to him. In the month of February, Conley is averaging 14.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 6.1 assists. It’s this show of promise that made it possible for the Grizzlies to trade Kyle Lowry at the deadline and to therefore basically hand over the reigns of this team to Conley.

The undersized Grizzlies’ backcourt means that Mo Williams and Delonte West will be able to easily interchange defensive assignments, depending on where the Cavs most need West. If Conley is able to break down Mo off the dribble, then expect to see West spend some time defending him. Otherwise, I would imagine Delonte will spend much of his night shadowing Mayo and trying to make his life as difficult as possible, as he did the first time these two teams met in January.

Defensively, the Grizzlies have size (Gasol and Milicic) and athleticism (Warrick and Arthur) in their frontcourt, but despite those traits, they are still not a very good rebounding team and they don’t block a lot of shots. In general, this team does not play very strong defense, and with West back in the lineup, we saw Sunday night how much better the Cavs’ spacing is on offense. Spacing and ball movement are two of the biggest factors when playing a weak defensive team because it can create a plethora of easy baskets, and I look for the Cavaliers to try to take advantage of this weakness and get to basket as often as possible.

The prime matchup in this game, though, will be LeBron vs Gay. I have long admired Rudy Gay’s game and I find him to be one of the most entertaining guys in the Association to watch play, but he is also maddeningly inconsistent, and at times he has a tendency to try to take too many outside shots against the Cavaliers (for an analogy, think of how LeBron usually plays against the Pistons and Spurs). In the last matchup, LeBron ended up with 30 points and held Gay to just 10 points on 5-18 shooting from the field. I’d expect a player of Gay’s caliber to look to try to be more aggressive in getting to some driving lanes in this game, so look for LeBron to have to spend a little more energy on defense in this game.

It’s really a shame that the old Grizzlies of Conley, Mike Miller, Gay, Warrick, and Pau Gasol were never able to find a way to gel together, because I always thought that had the potential to be a very difficult lineup to defend. Here they are just a year and a half later, and Pau and Miller are gone and the Grizzlies are rebuilding once again, limping through this season with the Association’s 7th worst record. The Cavaliers have a long, difficult, and grinding road ahead of them, and they cannot afford to overlook this struggling Grizzlies team. Especially not at home, and especially with so much on the line every time the Cavs take the court this season. It’s that pressure of trying to win the #1 seed that will continue to make these kind of games interesting to watch, and more importantly, necessary for the Cavaliers to win.

Vegas Line

Cleveland –14.5
Over/Under 192.5

From The Outside Looking In

3 Shades of Blue
Memphis Grizzlies from a fan’s seat
Grizzed by Vanjulio

Next Game For The Cavaliers

Thursday, February 26, 2009
8:00 PM EST
Cleveland Cavaliers at Houston Rockets

  • Hoy

    I would say the only trap game we lost this year was the Washington game, now of Crab Dribble lore. But we have no history with Memphis like we do with Washington.

    I’m also not terribly concerned about D West and the durability, even with the wrist injury he should be able to keep his legs fresh, if anything I would imagine the time off allowed him to recharge himself physically, especially since it wasn’t his shooting wrist that was injured, I imagine he’ll be in top form from here on out.

  • mgbode

    Poor Conley. He is a distributor stuck on a team with guys who like to dribble the ball to score (Mayo, Gay).

    I wish he was the PG traded instead of Crittenton and then Lowry. A shame that he’s stuck in Memphis until his contract runs out.

    And Chris Wallace has destroyed the Griz…the starters look okay in that they are young with potential, but absolutely no depth on their bench at all.

  • AMC

    This just in, per Windhorst – Delonte out for tonight, TK to start:

    The Cavs will hold Delonte West out of tonight’s game against the Grizzlies with general right wrist soreness. The team had x-rays taken after West’s wrist stiffened up after Sunday’s win over the Pistons and they showed no damage. So the team is just being cautious and giving him some more time to recover from the first game.

    Four games in five days against four playoff teams probably has something to do with the decision. Tarence Kinsey will start at shooting guard.

  • IRB?

    I think holding DW out tonight is a good call. The game is winnable, no need to force the issue with him.

  • Bridgecrosser

    I’d like a nice “up by 25 after 3 quarters” beatdown and sit the key guys for the 4th.

  • Scott

    Joey Crawford, come on down!

  • SambofromOH

    This is slightly off topic but now that Marbury has been waived there is no way that the Celtics could make a run at him since they signed Mikki Moore today right? They dont have much, if any, left from thier MLE right?

  • Tron

    I think unfortunately for us Marbury is going to basically take pennies from Boston in order to sign with them. Suddenly the Celtics thin bench got not so thin…

  • Jacob Rosen

    Thin but still not very good. A bench of Mikki Moore, Brian Scalabrine, Glen Davis, Leon Powe, Eddie House, Tony Allen, and Stephon Marbury is still not that great for the playoffs. Especially when you consider that the Cavaliers run 11-men deep easy when they are full strength (Andy, Hickson, Wally, Pavlovic, Kinsey, Gibson). Of those six bench players, already four have seen starting duties this season, and are capable of being solid contributors at any time.

    Speaking of bench.. See what the Bulls did to the Magic tonight? Despite seven Magic scoring in double figures, their new elite bench of Brad Miller, Tim Thomas, John Salmons and Kirk Hinrich helped them out-hustle them and win 120-102. Bulls suddenly look pretty good with home wins over Orlando and Cleveland…

  • SambofromOH

    Well, heres hopin’ Joe Smith gets bought out in the next 4 days.

    Wow, I didnt realize that the Bulls bench had gotten so deep. Havent all of thier backups started games this season? Sheesh. Hopefully they wont be a stumbling block for us too later this season.