Keys to the Game presented by: Key Bank

Five Keys: Cavaliers vs. Grizzlies

David Liam Kyle/NBAE/Getty Images
by Joe Gabriele Managing Editor

Key: Bear Essentials

On Saturday night, the league’s hottest team takes on the league’s coldest – with the Wine & Gold looking to run their win streak to 11 games and extend the Grizzlies’ skein to that same number.

On Thursday night in Atlanta, the Cavaliers bounced back from a sluggish first half, using a flurry of three pointers late in the third to pull away from the scrappy Hawks and close out the month with a 7-1 road mark.

The Grizzlies are headed in the opposite direction, continuing their downward spiral despite firing head coach David Fizdale earlier this week. The Spurs prolonged Memphis’ misery heading into Saturday’s contest – dropping them twice in a home-and-home matchup, including a one-sided defeat on Friday night at the Grindhouse.

The Cavs have history on their side – boasting a 16-4 all-time mark against Memphis at The Q, holding the Grizz under the century mark in 13 of those 20 contests.

But Cleveland has been a tough stop for any Western Conference squad over the past few years – with the Wine & Gold sporting a 33-6 mark against the West in their last 39 home matchups.

Key: Middle Men

Over the Cavaliers’ successful November run, and with Tristan Thompson still recovering from a strained left calf, Kevin Love has had to square off against some high-profile big men – and he and the Cavaliers have come out on top in almost every matchup.

Cleveland’s four-time All-Star will have his work cut out for him again in Saturday night when Marc Gasol rolls in with the Grizzlies.

Gasol does it all for Memphis – currently leading the team in scoring (18.5 ppg), rebounding (9.1), assists (4.2) and blocked shots (1.57). The 10-year vet, who finished with 16 points and 13 boards in Friday’s loss to San Antonio, also doubled-up in his last meeting with Cleveland – finishing with 17 points and 11 rebounds in the Grizzlies’ 12-point win last year in Memphis.

Kevin Love has been outstanding over the course of the win streak and especially good of late -- averaging 31.5 points and 12.5 boards over his last two games. In his last four meetings with Memphis, he’s doubled-up in each – averaging 20.5 points on 53 percent shooting, going 19-for-19 from the stripe, to go with 11.8 boards and 3.3 assists per.

Key: James' Gang

For a guy who’s turning 33 at the end of the month and has logged over 51,000 minutes over his 15-year career, LeBron James shows absolutely no signs of slowing down. In fact, he’s only been getting better – notching four straight double-doubles heading into tonight’s showdown with Memphis.

On Thursday night against the Hawks, the four-time MVP shot a season-best .717 from the floor, going 8-of-11 from the field, including 3-of-6 from long-range – adding six boards, a game-high 12 assists, two steals and a pair of blocks in the win. Both he and Love are tied for 3rd place in the NBA this season with 14 double-doubles.

Over his career, the King has had some big nights against the Grizzlies – including a 51-point outburst back in 2008 – and he was rock-solid in his lone appearance against them last year – finishing with 23 points and eight assists in Cleveland’s 17-point victory last December at The Q.

Key: Bench Mob

After LeBron and Kevin Love, the Cavaliers next three top scorers are all reserves, with Cleveland’s bench being one of the squad’s strong suits all season.

Dwyane Wade has led the charge – running a second unit that averaged 40.5 points per contest, good for 5th in the NBA. Cleveland’s bench has topped the 40-point mark 14 times already this season – and is coming off a strong collective effort in Thursday’s win over Atlanta. In the victory, Wade finished with 19 points on 6-of-11 shooting, including 3-of-5 from long-range, to go with three assists, two boards, four steals and a pair of blocks.

Jeff Green chipped in with 12 points, notching double-figures for the second time in his last three outings.

Despite a quiet night in his return to Atlanta, Kyle Korver has tallied double-digit scoring in three of his last five outings and currently ranks 11th in the East with a .441 mark from long-distance this season.

The Grizzlies main weapon off the bench in Chandler Parsons, who’s coming off a 12-point outing against the Spurs and has registered double-digit scoring in five of his last seven appearances.

Key: Getting Evans

The Grizzlies aren’t one of the league’s more explosive teams, but they still have some explosive players like guard Tyreke Evans, who’s having somewhat of a rebirth in Memphis – averaging 17.8 points for the Grizzlies, good for second on the squad.

After coming off the bench in Memphis’ first 19 games of the year, Evans was moved into the starting lineup before the matchups with San Antonio. Evans was solid in his first start – finishing with 22 points on 9-for-17 shooting before laying an egg on Friday night, going 1-for-7 from the floor for three points.

He’ll start out against J.R. Smith, who still hasn’t hit his rhythm this season, despite netting double-figures in three straight games before a quiet-but-efficient eight-point effort on Thursday night in Atlanta.

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