Nelson Chenault | USA Today Sports

Today, the Cleveland Cavaliers take on the Memphis Grizzlies who currently have the NBA’s second best record at 21-5. The current Southwest division leaders come into the Sunday matchup 9-3 on the road, looking to recover from their 103-97 home loss to the Chicago Bulls on Friday night:

The Cavaliers defeated the Brooklyn Nets on Friday, 95-91; they’ll be looking to win consecutive games for the first time since winning December 8th and 9th against the Nets and Raptors. They hold an overall record of 15-10 and are 9-5 at the Q.

This will indisputably be Cleveland’s most difficult challenge of the season to date. The Grizzlies pose threats to some of the Cavaliers’ greatest weaknesses, bringing a notion of completeness to an inconsistent and vulnerable Cleveland squad. Their hands will be full, but with concerns comes urgency; the Cavs must bring intensity to wrestle this dogged Grizzlies lineup. What’s more important, however, is the Cavs’ game plan. Here are 5 things the Cavs must do in order to defeat a formidable Memphis Grizzlies team.

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Justin Ford | USA TODAY Sports

1. Control The Pace!

There are 14 teams that allow at least 100 points per game or more on average; neither the Cavs nor the Grizzlies fall in that percentile, hinting at a game that will come down to who can get the extra stop. The Cavs are tied for 15th place defensively, allowing an average of 99.7 points per game while the Grizzlies rank 6th, allowing 96.7 pointers per game. The Cavs, however, are in the bottom 5 in opponent field goal percentage while Memphis is ranked 7th in the league. That is a little worrisome, as Cleveland has to deal with a ferocious frontcourt consisting of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, who do the bulk of their damage in the paint. Factor in the recent hot shooting streaks of Vince Carter and Mike Conley, and the Cavs will have their work cut out for them defensively. Memphis and Cleveland are also 9th and 10th in scoring, respectively; both average right around 102.8 points per game.

What the Cavs do better than the Grizzlies is rebounding the basketball. Cleveland has out-rebounded its opponents by 4 per game when at home, a trend that is likely to continue with a healthy Anderson Varejao, Kevin Love, and Tristan Thompson. With consistent rebounding and the most explosive fast break talent in the NBA, the Cavaliers intimidate teams’ offenses and defenses simultaneously. Before following through with their shots or corralling offensive rebounds, opponents struggle to hustle back in order to avoid getting burned by the relentless aerial assaults the Cavs are capable of in the open court. Planting that mentality in an offense, creating stops and spreading the floor out in transition is how the Cavs can prevent easy shots and second chance opportunities. With a fast-paced offense, the Cavs will apply a ton of defensive pressure on Memphis, who will likely not have their lockdown defender in Tony Allen tonight (missed last 2 games with corneal abrasion) and could also be without the services of Zach Randolph and Beno Udrih as they deal with injuries.

Watch as Tim Duncan, San Antonio’s leading rebounder, abandons the offensive board in a failed attempt to catch LeBron, who receives and finishes a beautiful Kevin Love outlet pass:

Memphis is a team that if you play at their pace, you will lose. If the Cavs slow down and try to size up the Grizzlies, they will be out powered. Establishing a fast-pace is the only way to offset Memphis’ tempo and keep them off balance. This is the Cavs’ no. 1 priority.

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Brandon Dill | AP

2. Tristan Thompson And Perimeter Rotations Essential To Lockdown Gasol

A healthy Marc Gasol has started this season on a MVP-esque tear for the Grizzlies. He boasts averages of 19.6 points, 7.9 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 1.7 blocks while also pitching in a steal a game, accurately illustrating his versatility as one of the league’s premier centers. Gasol has had great games against some of the best defensive centers this season, putting up 28 points, 12 rebounds, and four blocks against Tim Duncan, 30 points, five rebounds, and six assists against Tyson Chandler, and a 30 point, 12 rebound game against DeAndre Jordan. The Cavaliers will need team defense to try and stop Gasol; some of which will likely including double-teaming Gasol in the post and rotating to any kick-outs. That’s where Cleveland’s perimeter rotations will have to be top-notch because Memphis, although somewhat lacking on the perimeter, have the shooters to make them pay. The Cavs don’t have the capable individual talent with the size and athleticism to take on a player of Gasol’s strength and caliber, but the closest player to it would be coming off the bench in Tristan Thompson. The Cavs will be reluctant to give any open looks from outside, instead allowing Gasol to try and get his points 1-on-1 or in the pick-and-roll vs. Thompson and Varejao:

The pick-and-roll defense for the Cavs is simply terrible, and between Conley and Gasol, Kyrie will need a supporting Center who can handle switches and use his athleticism to stay with the play. Currently, Tristan Thompson offers the best bargain for such a demand.

Watch as in the late moments of the recent Raptors game, as Tristan Thompson switches on Kyle Lowry on the pick-and-roll and shows no fear in shutting down one of the league’s premiere Point Guards and proving his superhuman athleticism. Such versatility will be imperative in slowing down a man as hot as Gasol:

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Brandon Dill | AP

3. Take Care Of The Basketball

With the Cavs ranked 8th and Grizzlies ranked 7th in turnovers at around 12 per game, this game will also come down to who can take care of the basketball. Again, Tony Allen will likely miss tonight’s contest, thus eliminating Memphis’ leader in steals and giving the Cavs one less pesky defender to worry about. Memphis forces about 15 turnovers per game with Allen while Cleveland forces 13 turnovers, so both teams seem to be equally matched in many aspects of the game, albeit playing two completely different styles. Whoever can take every possession, as an important one while also getting the loose, 50/50 balls will have a distinct advantage towards winning the game.

Taking care of the basketball will dictate how effective the Cavs can be. The stops and possessions they earn by controlling the pace of the game and locking down Gasol will become irrelevant due to crucial mistakes like turning the ball over.

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Nelson Chenault | USA Today Sports

4. Prioritize

Memphis is the whole package. A balanced mix between power and veteran leadership, versatility and tenacity, will leave the Cavs with atrocious chances to cover all their bases. Tradeoffs are inevitable, and the Cavs should have a preliminary idea of where to cut their losses.

Vince Carter is a hot streak right now after making 9 three pointers in a 2-game span, while Courtney Lee and Mike Conley each make just under 2 three’s a game. If Gasol is going to have a big game, then the perimeter players for the Grizzlies cannot. The Cavs have had trouble shutting down both the painted area and the 3-point line, so keying in on one, preferably the perimeter, should bring successful results and hopefully a victory. Just like Allen, Zach Randolph is questionable with some swelling in his right knee, so not having to deal with the 20 point-10 rebound capable player will help. If he does end up playing, he should be double-teamed as soon as he puts the ball on the floor to make a move.

What’s the final thing the Cavs must do to get the win tonight? Find out on the last page of the gallery:

Joe Murphy | Getty Images

5. Get Mike Miller Going, Get The Offense Going

Mike Miller rained down 7 three-pointers on Friday night against the Nets, but also sprained his ankle in the game. He is probable to play against the Grizzlies, and will be a key to the Cavaliers’ offense once again. Miller’s ability to knock down the open shot will keep defenses honest and open up the middle driving lanes for some of the more aggressive ball-handlers. Memphis knows exactly what Miller can do and how easily he can get it going because he’s played 6 ½ seasons there in 2 different stints, the 2nd coming last year. Miller will likely be one of the more important players in tonight’s matchup because of his ability to knock down shots from deep and spread the floor for James, Irving, Waiters, and Love. If James Jones, Joe Harris, or Dion Waiters get it going, it’s going to further help the Cavs in their inside-outside basketball.