Cavs, Grizz hope to hit reset button
MEMPHIS — Two teams not included among the 10 in Tuesday’s Christmas Day extravaganza hope a two-day break gets them going in a positive direction when the Cleveland Cavaliers visit the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night.
Having Christmas off was a new experience for the Cavaliers, who have ridden LeBron James’ huge popularity to prime spots on the holiday schedule the last four years.
Cleveland played Golden State in NBA Finals rematches the most recent three of those four years, losing two of the three.
The Grizzlies, meanwhile, have never been called upon to play on Christmas. They have, however, been scheduled the day after the holiday each of the last seven seasons, losing all seven.
The last time the Grizzlies won on the day after Christmas was a 104-90 victory at Indiana in 2010. The last time they won a home game on Dec. 26 was 10 years ago in a 108-105 triumph over the Pacers.
Not surprisingly, the veterans played a complementary role to younger legs when rookie Jaren Jackson Jr. went for 27 points in a 107-99 road win against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday at the end of a four-game Western swing.
The Grizzlies had lost the first three games on the trip to temporarily fall back to .500 (16-16) for the first time since 2-2.
Conley and Gasol scored 17 points apiece in the win, but Grizzlies coach J.B. Bickerstaff has seen that before.
After the game, he found himself gushing over the franchise’s new weapon.
“With that size, length and speed, he’s a tough matchup,” he said of the 6-foot-11 Jackson. “The skill set is unique.”
The Grizzlies, whose two-game homestand includes a visit from Boston on Saturday, will be seeing the Cavaliers for the first time since James bolted for the Lakers. No doubt, they are glad he’s no longer around.
The James-led Cavaliers won at Memphis in three of the last four seasons, whereas the Grizzlies beat Cleveland four straight while the superstar was on his four-year hiatus to Miami.
The Cavaliers haven’t had Christmas off since 2013, the last time they didn’t employ James.
They embark on a three-game trip to Memphis, Miami and Atlanta having lost three in a row, including a humiliating 112-92 blowout at home to Chicago on Sunday.
The Cavaliers have allowed 106 or more points in 11 of their last 14 games, losing on 10 of those 11 occasions.
“There’s very few aspects of defense that we are good at right now,” Larry Nance Jr. proclaimed after the Chicago loss. “The league knows that. We’re last in points allowed and last in a lot of different things. That’s something that doesn’t get better with technique.
“It’s heart. It’s will. It’s something where we are letting guys have career nights on us. That’s something that we have to take personally.”