2 Seed Showdown on Beale: Grizzlies Vs. Cavaliers

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Tonight the second seeded Memphis Grizzlies will face their Eastern counterpart, the Cleveland Cavaliers at FedEx Forum. With only 11 games left in this stellar season the Grizzlies head into tonight’s game after clinching their 4th playoff appearance in a row with the 21 point win over the New York Knicks.

In their last match-up Memphis fell to the Cavaliers 91-105. In the loss the Grizzlies allowed the Cavs to shoot an incredible 61% from the field and 50% from the three-point line. On the season the Cavaliers are averaging a 45.9% field goal percentage and 36.5% from three. As with any game keeping the long range game under control is going to be vital. We all know J.R. Smith has the ability to get hot and get hot was exactly what he did on Sunday night in Milwaukee. Smith hit 7 of his 9 three’s, nailing 3 in a row during the 4th quarter that boosted the Cavaliers past the Bucks for their win. The Cavaliers come into this game on a 3 game winning streak and have gone 13-4 since the All Star break. To put it lightly, they have been playing some great team basketball.

LeBron James heads into tonight’s game averaging 25.9 ppg and 7.3 assists, leading his team in both points and assists. Right behind him is Kyrie Irving with 21.8 ppg and 5.3 assists. It is with no skill I predict that LeBron James is going to be LeBron James. He will score and it will probably be more than 20. If the Grizzlies allow the other team role players to score as well, they could be in for a long night. With the loss of Varejao the Cavaliers traded for starting center Timofey Mozgov, a move that is proving vital to the team during the second half of the season. Since joining Cleveland in January he has shot an average of 59.8%, scoring 10.8 points per game. The Cavaliers are armed with an arsenal of guys that will stretch the floor and the Grizzlies will have to be ready to defend the fast break. Keeping at least two of either Smith, Love or Mozgov out of double digits is going to be a necessary goal to win this game.

Memphis heads into tonight’s game ranking second in the NBA in opponent points allowed per game. On average the Grizzlies allow 95.2 ppg and they will need to bring their stifling defense to the court to secure a win against the Cavaliers. I expect Tony Allen to spend a lot of time on the floor, as long as he stays out of foul trouble that is. Tony’s ability to perform at a high level, whether from the bench or in the starting line up has been evident throughout the latter part of this season. He has been the spark of energy that the seemingly tired and lackluster Grizzlies have needed. Tony has shot an average of 63.7% in the month of March and shot 69.7% averaging 10.7 points in the three game winning streak the Grizzlies are currently on. Behind Zach he is our most efficient player this season and I expect him to be in playoff form for tonight’s game.

As with any win the Grizzlies experience Marc and Zach will also have to find a way to make their impact down low. An aggressive Marc Gasol is a good Marc Gasol. In losses since the All-Star break Marc has averaged 12.7 ppg; he has averaged 18.1 ppg in wins. Marc will need to score, a lot. Marc’s defensive acumen will also be necessary to keep the lanes closed and the Cavaliers from scoring in the paint. Mike Conley will have his hands full with Kyrie Irving and will need to force him into taking outside, contested jump shots and not allow easy buckets out of transition. Slowing down the game is going to be a key factor in a Grizz win. The Grizzlies may not be able to match the fast paced offense of the Cavaliers but they are a dominant force defensively and will need to capitalize on that to grab another win.

Since it is playoff time, the most important factor headed into this game: Memphis must continue to win and hold onto their rank as the second seed in the powerhouse west. They are currently sitting on the top of the Southwest Division and staying in that spot could prove essential heading into the playoffs. There are only 7 regular season home games left so if you haven’t already got your ticket, try to. It is the Grindhouse after all; we can’t have all that cheering for LeBron be too loud.

Tabitha Smith

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