1. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph combined to shoot 9-27 from the field when these two teams met on Feb. 9. How can the Cavaliers force the Memphis bigs to have another bad shooting night?
Chris Manning, Right Down Euclid EIC: Tristan Thompson, along with the twin towers (Spencer Hawes and Tyler Zeller) will be the key here. With Anderson Varejao still working his way back from injury, Zeller and Hawes will need to do their best to frustate Gasol and keep him from finding openings. As for Thompson, he needs to play similarly to how he played last time. Although Randolph is a physical presence down low and commands respect, Thomspon has the perfect skill set to shut him down. He did so last time and I think he does it again.
Kevin Yeung, Grizzly Bear Blues writer: Marc Gasol has been inconsistent offensively since his return from injury, looking passive and not really shooting that well. The main focus should be containing Zach Randolph, who’s often been the go-to guy for the Grizzlies. Last time the Grizz played the Cavs, Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao did a great job of fighting Z-Bo down low and getting an arm up to contest shots. Varejao’s out and Spencer Hawes isn’t nearly as resourceful defensively, so getting a repeat performance from Thompson and strong defense from the team overall will be important.
Trevor Magnotti, Right Down Euclid Staff Writer: Last time out, I said that the key would be containing Marc Gasol’s passing in the high post. The Cavaliers did a great job of that with Anderson Varejao and Tyler Zeller playing Gasol closely in this area. However, the larger issue at hand was that the Grizz were missing Mike Conley and Tony Allen, and thus playing two backups huge minutes in the backcourt. Nick Calathes had some bright spots, but was a largely ineffective passer, and that resulted in a lot of the open flashes Randolph and Gasol get in the paint off Conley passes not being there. With Conley back, the Grizzlies offense should operate much more smoothly overall, but especially in the post. If the Cavs want that same success, point defense is arguably more important than the isolated defense of these two.
2. The chances this game is as unwatchable as the last one are high, thanks to the Grizzlies’ pace and the Cavs……Cav-ness. What are three reasons we should watch this game?
CM: For starters, Kyrie Irving is truly roudning into form and starting to play like himself. When he is on point and making plays, he is simply electrifying to watch. Secondly, Mike Conley is back and a Kyrie-Conley matchup is simply fascinating. They are opposites and players and whomever gets the upper hand in the matchup likely leads their team to victory. I also think Spencer Hawes on offense versus Marc Gasol on defense is really interesting. If Hawes can pull Gasol away from the rim, the Cavaliers offense could really open up. And if not, it will be interesting to see if the Cavaliers can figure out the Gasol puzzle again. And a bonus fourth anwer: Both teams need every win they can get as they chase a playoff birth.
KY: Spencer Hawes has been really fun in his first four games with the Cavs, and his ability to drag defenders out of the paint through his shooting could be problematic for the Grizzlies. Kyrie Irving dropped a robust and very pretty 28 points on the Grizz last time they played, and even Dion Waiters was great in the overtime of that game. I’m sure you guys still remember his explosive dunk down the middle of the lane? Finally, since Mike Conley was out the last time these two teams played, this will be the only time this season for Cavs fans to see him play against their team. He’s a guy worth watching!
TM: 1. Tony Allen vs. Jarrett Jack is going to be hilarious. I just know it. 2. The offensive contrast of styles is going to be fascinating if you’re an X’s and O’s fan. The Grizzlies run a pretty complex offensive system with some fun innovative plays involving the passing of Marc Gasol and Mike Conley working in space, while the Cavs almost exclusively attempt to do their damage on quick-hitters that don’t take up much of the shot clock. 3. An unorthodox one, but two former teammates who don’t get as much playing time as many think they deserve will butt heads for portions of the game, as former Tar Heels Ed Davis and Tyler Zeller duke it out in the post.
3. The other time the Cavaliers played the Grizzlies this season, Mike Conley was injured and the Cavs won by eight points in overtime. With Conley back for Saturday’s matchup, how do you think he affects the outcome?
CM: Considering that Irving isn’t anything special on offense, where Conley can be the biggest game changer is on the defensive end. If he can make Irving work for everything and take him out of the game for stretches, then he’s going to get the head off the Cleveland offense. And, if you didn’t know, this Cavaliers offense isn’t exactly a hydra. If Conley can shut down Irving, then there’s a very good chance he decides the flow of the entire game. And at the very least, he’s going to lead the Grizzles offense better than Nick Calathes can on his best day.
KY: Conley’s having the best season of his career offensively, and he’s an obvious game-changer. Nick Calathes was great in the last game, but Conley is a very different type of threat and commands much more attention from the defense because of his slashing style. The Cavs aren’t a great defensive team, and Conley being able to draw help defenders will help mightily in forcing defensive breakdowns.
TM: As I mentioned earlier, Conley is going to open up the entire offense for Memphis. The Grizzlies struggled mightily on that end last time because Nick Calathes isn’t anywhere near the passer that Conley is, and Gasol and Z-Bo struggled to get the same looks that they are used to off the ball. Conley not only has improved his scoring touch this year, taking over more of a role on that end for Memphis, but his court vision allows him to feed teammates where they want the ball like few in the league can. That’s going to be a big hurdle for the Cavs to overcome tonight.