Cavs Dribbles: It's Garland vs. Morant and Rolling Grizzlies, Round II
Pregame dribbles as the Cavaliers get set for their visit to Memphis on Friday (8 p.m., FOX Sports Ohio).
1. There are only about three or four rookie guards worth discussing and two of them face off tonight. That's Ja Morant of the Grizzlies and Darius Garland of the Cavaliers.
2. Morant is the leading candidate for Rookie of the Year at the midway point of the season. The Grizzlies (19-22) have won six straight and are in the playoff race. Morant is a big reason why. He is averaging 18.0 points, 6.9 assists and serving up some serious highlights for TV and social media.
3. Morant on his first season: "I'm having a lot of fun. I'm enjoying every bit of it. I'm thankful and grateful to even be here and be able to play for Memphis in front of this crowd with these guys."
4. Morant was the No. 2 overall draft pick. Garland went No. 5 overall. The Cavs won the first matchup, 114-107 in Cleveland last month. Garland tried to downplay any sort of extra motivation in facing Morant. But you knew it was there. In this game, it always is. The point guard picked lower wants to show up the guy selected before him.
5. Garland is averaging 12.3 points and 3.6 assists. He has been particularly good in the last 10 games as he adjusts to the NBA. Unlike Morant, who is in total control of the Grizzlies' offense, Garland shares the backcourt with a high-volume scorer in Collin Sexton.
6. Overall, the Cavs have played better lately. They won the first two of this six-game trip that will take them through all four time zones. They were blown out in the second half of each of the last two. But fortunately for the Cavs (12-29), the Grizzlies have no one like the Lakers' LeBron James or Clippers' Kawhi Leonard.
7. How how have the Grizzlies been lately? The last time they failed to score 110 points came nearly a month ago (Dec. 20). And yes, it happened in a 114-107 loss to the Cavs.
8. Basically, first-time head coach Taylor Jenkins has the Grizzlies cooking. He is a disciple of Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer and the Grizzlies run a lot of the same sets. They are flying under the radar but look further along than the Cavs (and a lot of others) in their rebuild.
9. Meanwhile, coach John Beilein and the Cavs just hope to keep a good thing going against opponents who are a little closer to their caliber.
10. As reserve center John Henson said, "We're a lot better than Game 1, I'll tell you that much? Especially with Darius and Collin, I really see their growth, and teams are really trying to scheme against them. That's always a good thing for the franchise as a whole, and the future."
11. Speaking of Henson, here's my look at the Cavs as we approach the trade deadline: It's nearing decision time on Love, Thompson, others.
12. Also, here is a full game preview if you're interested: Grizzlies host Cavs in search of seventh straight win.