Though the Memphis Grizzlies remain without leading scorer Mike Conley, they’ve been successful when they’ve played well on the defensive end.
The Cleveland Cavaliers also could be missing one of their top scorers, but they didn’t need Luol Deng during the offensive surge that ended their losing streak.
The Grizzlies will try for their seventh victory in eight road games while keeping the Cavaliers from winning consecutive contests for the first time in a month Sunday night.
Memphis (27-22) allowed just 88.9 points per game during a stretch in which it won 11 of 12 to climb over the .500 mark. Near the end of that run, however, the Grizzlies lost Conley – averaging a team-best 18.0 points and 6.3 assists – to a right ankle sprain in a 94-90 victory at Minnesota on Jan. 31.
While Memphis managed to defeat NBA-worst Milwaukee in the following contest, the team struggled offensively without its starting point guard in an 86-77 loss at Oklahoma City on Monday that ended its six-game road winning streak.
The Grizzlies suffered consecutive losses for the first time since a five-game slide Dec. 11-18, taking a step back defensively in a 110-96 defeat to visiting Dallas on Wednesday before bouncing back with Saturday’s 79-76 victory at Atlanta.
Memphis improved to 2-4 without Conley this season despite setting an NBA record with only one free-throw attempt. The Grizzlies held the Hawks to a combined 25 points in the second and third quarters.
"Wow! Wow! Wow!" said forward Zach Randolph, who led the way with 20 points. "That whole game – wow!"
Marc Gasol had eight points on 4-of-14 shooting but added eight rebounds and seven assists. The 2012-13 Defensive Player of Year has struggled to regain his shooting touch, averaging 11.2 points on 44.5 percent shooting in 13 games since missing 23 due to a knee injury.
Gasol could fare better in this matchup since he totaled 41 points on 18-of-26 shooting to lead the Grizzlies to a sweep of last season’s series with the Cavaliers.
Cleveland (17-33) will try to avoid a season-worst fourth straight home loss as it tries to post its first back-to-back victories since Jan. 7-10.
Since averaging 89.5 points while shooting 39.9 percent from the field over a recent six-game stretch, the Cavaliers have put up 110.0 points per game on 44.6 percent shooting in their last three.
With Deng out Friday due to flu-like symptoms, Dion Waiters stepped up with 24 points and Kyrie Irving overcame his own illness to finish with 23 points and 12 assists to help Cleveland break a six-game skid with a 115-113 victory one day after general manager Chris Grant was fired.
"That’s the sad part, the bad part about our business," Irving said. "Things are going to change whether you like it or not and you still have to go out there and perform as a professional."
Irving has performed well against the defensive-minded Grizzlies, scoring a combined 49 while making 21 of 37 (56.8 percent) shots in two career meetings.
After missing an 84-78 loss in Memphis on Nov. 26, 2012, due to injury, Irving had 24 points in a 103-92 defeat in the most recent matchup in Cleveland on March 8.
C.J. Miles, who has totaled 45 points in his last two games, could get another start with Deng questionable for this contest.
The Cavaliers have dropped the last four meetings with the Grizzlies.