3. Cleveland Cavaliers at Memphis Grizzlies – Feb. 1 – TNT
When the Cavaliers made this trip last season, they lost by a point after holding the Grizzlies to 38.3 percent shooting in the second half. Dean Wade and Donovan Mitchell didn’t play.
By this date, Ja Morant will have returned from his suspension. Hopefully, Steven Adams and Brandon Clarke will be present, bolstering Memphis’ front line. This encounter is intriguing because both sides possess dynamic backcourts and two of the most talented young bigs in the league: Jaren Jackson Jr. for the Grizzlies and Mobley for the Cavaliers.
Both of these bigs are the defensive anchors for their clubs. They’ll both have a long night of showing on opposing ball handlers after the screen before the quick recovery to their man to stop a hard drive, but this will momentarily leave the middle open. Each squad will try to overwhelm the handler up top to create a fastbreak via turnover.
Eventually, Mobley and Jackson will go at each other. JJJ may be thicker, stronger, and equally agile, but he’s prone to commit cheap fouls and leave his feet. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year was first in committed fouls per game (3.6) in 2022-23. In the one match when they guarded each other, Mobley didn’t draw any penalties against Jackson. He did, however, convert four of eight shots defended by him. When Jackson challenged Mobley, he was successful four of nine times and drew one shooting foul.
The best players dispose of schemes and individual defenders (partly because the rules allow it now), and on Jan. 18, Mobley’s four baskets were of high difficulty. First, he hit a fadeaway with Jackson inches from his body, then a contested lob over his head and two turnaround hooks, both with contact.
In this loss, Mobley was affected more by Adams’ disruption near the rim, holding him to one of three shots. The next step in Mobley’s evolution is destroying them when they guard him.