Memphis Grizzlies vs. Cleveland Cavaliers Game Preview and Game Thread

Feb 2, 2023 - 3:09 PM
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Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images

WHO: Memphis Grizzlies (32-19, 11-15 road) at Cleveland Cavaliers (31-22, 21-6 home)

WHEN: 6:30 PM CT

WHERE: FedEx Forum

HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: TNT/Bally Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis


MEMPHIS: Desmond Bane (Questionable, Knee), Danny Green (Questionable, Knee), Steven Adams (Out, Knee), John Konchar (Questionable, Concussion protocol) — BOUND TO CHANGE

CLEVELAND: Isaiah Mobley (Out, two-way), Dylan Windler (Out, ankle)


MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks, Jaren Jackson Jr., Brandon Clarke

CLEVELAND: Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Isaac Okoro, Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen

The Memphis Grizzlies had gotten a win on Sunday against the Indiana Pacers, exemplifying the energy and swagger we’re used to seeing from this team. Then, the losing returned, as they lost to the Portland Trail Blazers at home last night. The shooting was cold once again, and the offense went stagnant and one-dimensional down the stretch.

Now on to another game.

On the road.


The Grizzlies and Cavaliers met just a few weeks ago, in the middle of the Memphis’ 11-game winning streak. It was a thrilling matchup that looked like the championship preview that basketball savants desire and TV executives dread.

The Grizzlies need to rekindle their swagger and get out of this funk. How can they overcome the Cavaliers?

Signature Villain

Dillon Brooks has struggled mightily offensively since the calendar year flipped — averaging 11.5 points on 35.2% shooting from the field and 21.5% from 3. One element that stands out here is, he isn’t erratically forcing shots. He’s missing open ones he usually hits.

One downside I’m truly monitoring is how these woes have outweighed his defensive impact. Since the Kings game on De’Aaron Fox, he hasn’t really had a signature “villain” game where he forces another team’s star player into an off-night. Often times, his defensive brilliance can outshine any sort of struggles he has offensively. It hasn’t been the case since it became 2023.

His last signature villain moment though: the game-sealing block on Darius Garland.

Tonight offers an opportunity for him to charge up his swagger and get back to what he does best: being a menace towards another team’s star player. He can do so on either Garland or Donovan Mitchell, who didn’t play in the last meeting between the two teams. Brooks can bother Mitchell or Garland with his size and physicality, but — as evident through their 2021 playoff meeting — Mitchell’s speed and shiftiness can be tough for Brooks to navigate.

In a stretch where swagger and mojo need to return, they need to turn to their “spirit leader,” “head of the snake” Dillon Brooks.

Win the bench battle

The Memphis Grizzlies have a chance to win the bench battle. It will be tough with the offensive prowess of Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, but they can exploit them defensively.

Starting with the floor general, Tyus Jones has cooled off, averaging 5.8 points on 30.8% shooting in the past 4 games. Fresh off an ACL return, Rubio is a defensive matchup Jones can attack with his 3-level scoring and his drive-and-kick attack. His offensive pop off the bench could also help the Grizzlies put together a good shooting night in the midst of this slump.

As great as Kevin Love is offensively, the Grizzlies have the pieces to attack his spotty defense. Brandon Clarke seems like a likely candidate to (inexplicably) come off the bench, so they could use his rolling abilities to put Love through pick-and-roll cycles. Santi Aldama can use his driving and slashing from the perimeter to initiate advantages downhill.

The Grizzlies need an offense spark. It all starts with their best players, but they need a lift from the bench off a back-to-back and in the team’s worst stretch of the season.

Prediction: It’s a back-to-back, on the road, against a playoff team. I don’t see it tonight. Cleveland 108, Grizzlies 100.

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