The Cavs come to town as the Grizzlies seek a record 11th straight franchise win
Grizzlies guards Dillon Brooks and Ja Morant showcased solid defense that upped their hot streak
The Memphis Grizzlies will get the chance to tie their longest winning streak in franchise history when they host the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday.
Monday’s 30-point demolition of the Phoenix Suns extended the Grizzlies’ streak to 10, and they are now one win away from tying their 11-game record from the 2014-15 campaign starring Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, matched last season.
Over their last 10 games, the Grizzlies have been giants at both ends of the court, scoring 119.9 points per 100 possessiooooooooons to sit third in the offensive rating, while also having the best defense in the NBA, allowing only 106.5.
Meanwhile, the team overtaken by the Grizzlies for the top spot in the defensive rankings is the Cavaliers, who are still sitting in second place this season.
Another key indicator for true contenders is net rating – which measures how well a team’s offensive rating compares to their defense – and both sides excelled during the first half of the season. The Grizzlies sit second overall with a net rating of 5.8, while the Cavaliers are third with 4.7.
Two very similar teams, both the Cavaliers and Grizzlies use two defensive anchors in their starting line-up, moving away from the “small ball” roster construction more commonly seen around the league.
For the Grizzlies, Steven Adams is arguably the strongest rebounder in the league while Jaren Jackson Jr. is arguably the strongest rebounder in the league. led the NBA in blocks per game with 3.3. On the Cavaliers side, All-Star Jarrett Allen and defensive maven Evan Mobley roam the backcountry.
While these defensive sides are nearly identical, the way they attack, particularly through their star players, can determine their fate.
Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant is, without a doubt, one of the best guards in league history when it comes to hoop finishing. He averaged five goals per game within five feet of the basket – the only keeper in the league to do so – while converting at an astounding 61 per cent clip.
The issue is how well these two teams protect the basket, as it begs the question of what happens when an unstoppable force – Morant – meets an immovable object – edge guards Allen and Mobley.
On the other hand, Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell’s combination for the Cavaliers is much softer with their attacking style.
Garland excelled in floater reach from five to nine feet from the ring, sitting 15th in the league at 1.3 makes per game at 50 percent efficiency, while Mitchell provided long range strikes.
Mitchell has an average of 3.1 makes per game in deep threes (over 25 feet), which trails only Splash Brothers Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors (3.8) and Klay Thompson (3.2).
This should be a mouth-watering match-up between two of the league’s best defensive teams, who both have all their starlets healthy and ready to go as they look to solidify their playoff position.
Cleveland Cavaliers–Jarrett Allen
It’s no secret that Morant is the driving force behind the Grizzlies’ success, and to dominate the game, he needs to control the paint.
Allen is the Cavaliers’ primary rim protector and will be tasked with preventing Morant from providing more of his major finishes, and if he can turn Morant into the jump-shooter for the night, Cleveland will consider it a major win.
Memphis Grizzlies – Desmond Bane
Desmond Bane was the perfect equalizer for Morant, providing the Grizzlies with a dynamic shooting threat that caught the eye of defense every time.
Over three seasons, Bane had a ridiculous career three-point percentage of 43.3. This isn’t just a strong number, it’s an all-time career-best seventh, and puts him in the absolute top shooter echelon in today’s game.
If he can hit a pair early and force the Cavaliers defense to distract them from Morant, Bane could open things up for the Grizzlies offense.
KEY BATTLE – Can the Cavaliers figure out a way to win on the road?
Going into this contest, both the Grizzlies (19-3) and Cavaliers (19-4) sat in the top three spots for the NBA’s best home records.
The Grizzlies will have the honor of hosting this time around, leaving the Cavs as underdogs as they try to figure out what’s behind their disappointing 9-13 road record this season.
HEAD TO HEAD
This will be the first time this season the two teams have met, although the Grizzlies have won each of the last three games.
The Cavaliers defeated the Grizzlies once during Morant’s rookie season in 2019, but the former Rookie of the Year hasn’t lost to them since.