That second part is about to change. The Grizzlies 11 opponents so far have owned a .596 winning percentage. The three Eastern Conference cellar-dwellers that will come to FedExForum this week have a combined .220 winning percentage. And this starts tonight with the 3-10 Cleveland Cavaliers, who will be without their budding superstar point guard Kyrie Irving, who is out with a broken finger.
The Cavs have played the fifth-fastest pace in the league with a 29th-ranked defense. If that holds up tonight, and the Grizzlies are in good form, not only will the home team notch its 10th win, but will have a big scoring night doing so.
Three things on my mind about tonight's game:
1. The Return of Jeremy Pargo: Who knew this would actually be an interesting storyline? After a failed rookie season as the Grizzlies' back-up point guard, the Griz paid the Cavaliers to take Pargo this summer, thus reducing the team's potential luxury tax penalty. Pargo wasn't playing much before Irving's injury, but in his first game as a starter in Irving's stead, Pargo erupted for 28 points on 11-19 shooting in a (rare) win over the Philadelphia 76ers.
This echoed Pargo's opportunistic play for the Grizzlies last season, where he averaged 15 and 6 in the second and third games of the season when Mike Conley was out with a sprained ankle. But when Conley returned and Pargo moved back to the bench, he was rarely effective again.
So far, for Cleveland, Pargo's play has held up okay, scoring 15 and 16 points in subsequent games, the latter with 7 assists, albeit both in losses. He'll have a chance to make a memorable return tonight, much in the way Kyle Lowry and Grevis Vasquez have after being shipped out.
2. The Sideshow Bob & Z-Bo Rebounding Battle: Zach Randolph had been leading the NBA in rebounding for most of the early season, but was passed over the weekend by Cleveland center Anderson Varejao (whose mop of red curls resembles Simpsons character Sideshow Bob). Coming into tonight's game, Varejao leads Randolph 14.1 to 13.6 and has had 15 rebounds or more in each of his past four games.
3. The Way Cleveland Wins: Barring unusually poor play from the home team, I see only one clear way that Cleveland could sneak up and win this game, and that's if they get hot from outside. While a mediocre 20th in offensive efficiency, the Cavs have been good from long-range, ranking 8th in three-point shooting percentage (38%) and 4th in attempts per game (23.1). With Irving out, the Cavs have been even more reliant on three-point shooting to generate offense, averaging 26.7 attempts in the three games Irving has missed. And the Cavs have plenty of viable options, including Pargo, Dion Waiters, Daniel Gibson, Alonzo Gee, Omri Casspi, and C.J. Miles. The rookie Waiters, shooting better than 40% from three on 5.5 attempts a game, has been the Cavs' most prolific threat. Of course, he's going to be looking at Tony Allen across from him for the first time in his career. Good luck, rook.
Note: The Grizzlies issued a press release this morning about new security measures at games, including tonight's. It reads as follows:
FedExForum and the Memphis Grizzlies announced that effective this year, the NBA is requiring all venues to perform handwand searches at 50% of the Grizzlies’ games until the All-Star Break (Feb. 15-17) and then 100% of the Grizzlies’ games after the All-Star Break. This change will affect everyone that enters the arena on a gameday.
Fans are encouraged to get to the Grizzlies’ games early to prevent any delays entering the arena. All three games this week — Monday, November 26 vs. Cleveland, Wednesday, November 28 vs. Toronto & Friday, November 30 vs. Detroit — will have handwanding procedures conducted. For future games, there will be no advance notice.