The Memphis Grizzlies will get a chance to tie their longest winning streak in franchise history when they host the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday.

Monday's 30-point demolition of the Phoenix Suns extended the Grizzlies' streak to 10, and they are now one victory away from tying the 11-game streak from the 2014-15 campaign starring Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, which was matched last season.

Over their last 10 fixtures, the Grizzlies have been a juggernaut on both ends of the court, scoring 119.9 points per 100 possessions to sit third in offensive rating, while also boasting the best defense in the NBA, allowing just 106.5.

Meanwhile, the team the Grizzlies overtook to snatch top spot in the defensive rankings was the Cavaliers, who still sit second for the season.

Another key indicator for the true contenders is net rating – which measures how much better a team's offensive rating is compared to their defense – and both of these sides have excelled through the first half of the season. The Grizzlies sit second overall with a net rating of 5.8, while the Cavaliers are third at 4.7.

Two very similar teams, both the Cavaliers and the Grizzlies utilise two defensive anchors in their starting line-up, leaning away from the more prevalent "small ball" roster constructions seen around the league.

For the Grizzlies, Steven Adams is arguably the strongest rebounder in the league while Jaren Jackson Jr leads the NBA in blocks per game at 3.3. On the Cavaliers' side, All-Star Jarrett Allen and defensive prodigy Evan Mobley roam the interior.

While these sides are almost identical defensively, the way they attack on offense, particularly through their star players, could decide their fate.

Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant is, without a doubt, one of the best guards in league history when it comes to finishing at the rim. He is averaging five makes per game within five feet of the basket – the only guard in the league to do so – while converting at a terrific 61 per cent clip.

The problem with that is how well both of these teams protect the basket, as it creates the question of what happens when an unstoppable force – Morant – meets an immovable object – the rim protection of Allen and Mobley.

On the other hand, the combination of Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell for the Cavaliers are far more malleable with the way they create their offense.

Garland excels in 'floater range' from five-to-nine feet away from the hoop, sitting 15th in the league with 1.3 makes per game at an efficient 50 per cent, while Mitchell provides the long-range assault.

Mitchell is averaging 3.1 makes per game on deep threes (greater than 25 feet), which trails only the Golden State Warriors' Splash Brothers, Stephen Curry (3.8) and Klay Thompson (3.2).

It should be a mouthwatering clash between the league's best two defensive teams, who both have all their young stars healthy and ready to go as they look to strengthen their playoff positions.

 

PIVOTAL PERFORMERS 

Cleveland Cavaliers – Jarrett Allen

It is no secret that Morant is the driving force behind the Grizzlies' success, and for him to dominate games, he needs to control the paint.

Allen is the Cavaliers' primary rim protector and will be tasked with preventing Morant from producing more of his highlight-reel finishes, and if he can turn Morant into a jump-shooter for the night, Cleveland will consider that a massive win.

Memphis Grizzlies – Desmond Bane

Desmond Bane is the perfect counterbalance to Morant, providing the Grizzlies with a dynamic shooting threat who holds the defense's attention at all times.

Through three seasons, Bane owns a ridiculous career three-point percentage of 43.3. It is not just a strong number, it is the seventh-best career figure of all-time, and places him in the absolute top echelon of shooters in today's game.

If he can hit a couple early and force the Cavaliers' defense to divert some of their attention away from Morant, Bane could open up everything for the Grizzlies' offense.

KEY BATTLE – Can the Cavaliers figure out how to win on the road?

Heading into this contest, both the Grizzlies (19-3) and the Cavaliers (19-4) sit top-three in the NBA's best home records.

The Grizzlies will get the honour of hosting this time, leaving the Cavs as the underdogs as they try to figure out what is behind their disappointing 9-13 record away from home this campaign.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

This will be the first time this season these two teams meet, although the Grizzlies have won each of the past three matchups.

The Cavaliers defeated the Grizzlies once during Morant's rookie season in 2019, but the former Rookie of the Year has not lost to them since.

The Cleveland Cavaliers and the Milwaukee Bucks have each contended for and won titles in the past 10 years, but they have very rarely both been good at the same time.

LeBron James led the Cavaliers to four straight NBA Finals between 2014-15 and 2017-18 as they enjoyed an epic rivalry with the Golden State Warriors.

But Cleveland were tied for the second-worst record in the league the following year, with James in Los Angeles, as Central Division rivals Milwaukee came to prominence with the NBA's best record in Giannis Antetokounmpo's first MVP year.

The Bucks have since had control of the division and again lead the Eastern Conference through 30 games at 22-8.

Yet now there is a challenge from the Cavs, who are a competitive 21-11 and have won four straight games ahead of hosting the Bucks on Wednesday.

Having already shown real signs of progress last year in reaching the play-in tournament, Cleveland have kicked on again after a trade for Donovan Mitchell that they hope will turn them into a serious player in the East.

So far, that looks to be the case, with Mitchell's career-high 29.3 points per game leading the team – and ranking eighth in the NBA – while he has produced in big games against the Boston Celtics.

The Cavs are 2-0 against the second-placed Celtics this season; however, they are 0-2 against the Bucks, who will be intent on batting away their division rivals ahead of Christmas.

PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

Cleveland Cavaliers – Jarrett Allen

The Cavaliers will hope the physicality of Allen can be the missing piece against the Bucks. He has played only 12 minutes against Milwaukee so far this season, absent for the first game and withdrawn injured in the second having scored only a single point.

Since returning from that hip injury earlier this month, Allen has averaged 14.9 points and 9.3 rebounds, with 26 rebounds across his past two outings.

Milwaukee Bucks – Giannis Antetokounmpo

Nobody likes playing against Antetokounmpo, but only against the Brooklyn Nets and the Utah Jazz has he averaged more points per game across his career than against the Cavaliers.

Although the Cavs have spoken of Evan Mobley having the potential to become a player in the Giannis mould, neither he nor his team-mates have a fix for the 'Greek Freak' when he is in form – as he was in scoring 38 points in their last meeting.

KEY BATTLE – Can Cavs keep focus after halftime?

Two of the Cavaliers' three worst quarters this season in terms of points differential were the two third quarters they have played against the Bucks. They represented two of Milwaukee's four best quarters of the year.

The Cavs, again on a four-game winning run, had dominated the first half of the teams' most recent meeting, up by 11 before losing the third quarter 35-10 as they were blown away by the Bucks' title0calibre intensity.

Cleveland must show they are capable of going toe-to-toe with such opposition if they are to be a genuine threat this season.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

The Cavaliers may have struggled badly in Milwaukee this season, but they won their final two home games against the Bucks last year, providing hope of another win at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, where they are a league-leading 15-2 in 2022-23.

The Bucks have a 130-97 all-time lead in the series, although the Cavs have a 60-53 advantage in Cleveland.

Three-time All-Star Donovan Mitchell admitted his preseason debut for the Cleveland Cavaliers was "definitely weird" following his blockbuster offseason trade from the Utah Jazz.

Mitchell left the Jazz after five seasons in Salt Lake City, opting against a move to the New York Knicks to join an exciting Cavs line-up where he will play in the backcourt alongside Darius Garland.

The Cavs also boast All-Star Jarrett Allen and 2021-22 Rookie of the Year runner-up Evan Mobley along with veteran Kevin Love, offering hope of their first playoffs campaign since 2017-18.

Mitchell played 19 minutes, scoring 16 points on six-for-nine shooting, including three three-pointers along with five assists, in the Cavs' 113-112 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers in his first outing for his new franchise.

"Today, I just kind of sat there and had one of those moments where you sit there and look out and see everything, and it's like, 'Wow. It's really here'," Mitchell said.

"Then once you get on the court, basketball is basketball. But all the little things, it's definitely weird. A little different. But I'm excited. It's going the way I thought it would, in a good way.

"It just didn't feel real… it still didn't hit me yet."

Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff was pleased with Mitchell's initial cohesion alongside All-Star point guard Garland.

"I thought it was pretty seamless," Bickerstaff said. "The way they played together, the way the ball moved, everybody got involved.

"As long as we play in the same style we want to play, where it isn't just based on one guy, but based on the team, I think it's going to work out well for us."

The Cavs finished last season with a 44-38 record, missing the playoffs after losing in the Play-In Tournament to the Atlanta Hawks in the number eight seed game.

Jarrett Allen could be a possible inclusion for the Cleveland Cavaliers when they face the Atlanta Hawks on Friday.

The Athletic's Shams Charania reported Allen, who has been out since March due to a fractured finger, has not been ruled out for Friday despite being listed by Cleveland as questionable.

Following their 115-108 loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday in their opening play-in game, the Cavaliers now face a must-win situation to keep their season alive.

The 23-year-old All-Star averaged 16.3 points, 10.9 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game and held a career-best net rating of +26 before the injury, sustained in March against the Toronto Raptors, with the Cavs ending the regular season with a 7-11 record from that point.

Allen's inclusion would give Cleveland renewed flexibility with their rotation, using Lauri Markkanen and Evan Mobley in different defensive matchups on the back of Allen's rim protection.

With a win on Friday, JB Bickerstaff's side would secure a first-round playoff matchup against the Miami Heat, the Eastern Conference's first seed.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have confirmed All-Star center Jarrett Allen will be sidelined indefinitely after being diagnosed with a left middle finger fracture.

Allen suffered the injury in Sunday's 104-96 win over the Toronto Raptors that improved the Cavs' record to 37-27.

The 23-year-old only played 10 minutes, scoring six points with two rebounds, before sustaining a quad injury that forced him out of the game, with the finger issue later emerging.

"A CT scan administered today at Cleveland Clinic Sports Health revealed a fracture and he will undergo additional evaluation and treatment," the Cavs said in a statement on Monday.

"No timetable has been set for his return to basketball activities and his status will be updated as appropriate."

Allen has been a key part of the Cavs' surprise playoffs push, averaging 16.1 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.3 blocks this season.

The Cavs are already missing Collin Sexton (knee), Caris LeVert (foot) and Rajon Rondo who was signed after Ricky Rubio's season-ending ACL injury.

Allen got his maiden All-Star call-up this season as a replacement for the injured James Harden.

James Harden will miss the All-Star Game due to a left hamstring injury, with Jarrett Allen selected as his replacement. 

After joining the Philadelphia 76ers in a blockbuster trade that sent Ben Simmons to the Brooklyn Nets, Harden was ruled out until after this weekend's All-Star break. 

The 2018 NBA MVP had been selected as a reserve but will not feature in the game as he continues to recover from his hamstring issue. 

Harden joined up with his new team-mates in Philadelphia for practice on Monday but will not play against the Boston Celtics or Milwaukee Bucks this week. 

Cleveland Cavaliers center Allen was named as Harden's replacement for Sunday's game at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse by NBA commissioner Adam Silver. 

It will be Allen's first appearance in the All-Star Game and he will be part of Team LeBron. Cavs team-mate Darius Garland will line-up opposite him for Team Durant. 

The 23-year-old is averaging career highs of 16.2 points and 11.1 rebounds this season. He is ninth in the league for rebounds per game and 13th in blocks per game. 

The NBA season is heating up nicely.

The Phoenix Suns are on fire, the Golden State Warriors are hanging on their coattails, while defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks are fighting back after a slow start to their season.

Meanwhile, the Detroit Pistons and Oklahoma City Thunder cannot buy a win.

Those are the teams, but which players have been impressing, and which are struggling to make an impact? Stats Perform delves into the numbers with the latest edition of NBA Heat Check.

RUNNING HOT...

Luguentz Dort

It is a team game, which Luguentz Dort knows only too well as his increasingly impressive individual numbers are doing little to turn around the fortunes of the Thunder.

The shooting guard failed to score more than 17 points in any of October's games, but came back from missing the defeat to the LA Clippers on the first day of November determined to do something about his team's form.

Dort set about trying to help the Thunder recover from a slow start and managed seven games of over 20 points, including 34 in the win against the Houston Rockets. Unfortunately for him and his teammates, there have been no wins in seven since then, despite the Canadian's best efforts.

His increased total points per game of 11.7 in October to 19.2 in November is the most in the league, while he was fourth for increase in three-pointers made per game (1.2 to 2.8).

Without that leap in form from the 22-year-old, you wonder how much worse Oklahoma City's record would be right now.

Jarrett Allen

The Cleveland Cavaliers have been a streaky team so far this season, but in Allen they have someone who is showing himself to be a real difference maker.

Allen's numbers have increased almost identically to Dort's, with an average of points scored per game going up from 11.7 to 19.0 from October to November.

The 23-year-old also tops the charts for largest increase in total rebounds per game, going from 9.0 in October to 12.8 in November.

The Cavs won six of their first seven games in November, only to then lose their next five, the first three of which against the Celtics, the Nets and the Warriors they were without Allen through illness.

His return has eventually seen form turn back around, with wins against the Magic and the Mavericks followed up by another at the Heat to kick off December.

Jordan Poole

Three-pointers are an increasingly important part of the modern game, and there is little more satisfying than seeing the ball sunk all the way from downtown.

Golden State Warriors fans may be the only ones getting a little bored of them given how many they see these days, with Steph Curry still the king of three-points, but Poole has been more than holding his own with his 51 total this season seeing him only behind Curry (77), Buddy Hield (61) and Lonzo Ball (52) in the standings.

It is Poole's improvement that gets him onto this list, though, having averaged just 1.5 successful three-point attempts per game in October, he upped that to 3.4 in November, the joint-highest league increase with Luka Doncic.

He was also fifth most improved for points scored, going from 14.0 per game in October to 20.3 in November.

This has helped the Warriors to a strong 18-3 record so far, but he even managed to stand out in the recent defeat to the Phoenix Suns, sinking six three-point attempts in a total contribution of 28 points on the night.

GOING COLD...

Kemba Walker

It was all set up to be a feel-good story before the season began as Walker, born in the Bronx, returned to New York to play for the Knicks after years of success with the Charlotte Hornets and Boston Celtics.

The four-time All-Star got off to a promising start, with eight defensive rebounds against his former Celtics in a debut win, and scoring double figures in all six of his October games.

However, November was not so kind to the 31-year-old, with his average of 3.7 three-pointers per game going down to just 1.3, the largest decrease in the league, and only managing double figures in four of his 12 outings.

Walker has never averaged less than his current 11.7 points per game across a season, with a career average of 19.7.

Such has been the drop in form for Walker, Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau took the difficult decision to remove him from rotation ahead of the game at the Nets at the end of the month. 

Spencer Dinwiddie

The Washington Wizards point guard started the season with some impressive outings after his arrival from the Brooklyn Nets, including contributing 34 points in his second game against the Indiana Pacers, and scoring 20 or more in three of his five games in October. 

During November, Dinwiddie managed to score 20 or more just twice in 13 games, including failing to add anything to the scoreboard in defeat at the Charlotte Hornets.

His has been the largest decrease in points scored per game across the two months, going from an average of 19.8 in October to 12.8 in November.

The Wizards have not been too inconvenienced by this downturn in form from Dinwiddie, sitting second in the Eastern Conference on 14-8, but coach Wes Unseld Jr would surely love to see the 28-year-old return to his early season showings before too long.

Bam Adebayo

The Miami Heat center is averaging a career-best 18.7 points, along with 10.2 rebounds per game.

However, that number of rebounds has decreased from an average of 14.0 per game in October to 8.7 in November. Still respectable but the second-highest decrease of the month in the league behind only Gorgui Dieng (7.2 to 1.8). 

After registering double figures for rebounds in four of his five October performances, Adebayo only managed to do so in five of his 13 games in November, and unfortunately for him is set to miss the entirety of December after picking up a thumb injury.

The Heat won six of their first seven games, and Adebayo's electric form was a large part of that strong start, but having taken just two victories from their last six outings, will be hoping that when the Olympic gold medallist returns in the New Year, he can rediscover those elite levels.

Coach J. B. Bickerstaff lauded Evan Mobley's "will to win" after the rookie "stepped up big" in the Cleveland Cavaliers' stunning comeback victory against the Boston Celtics.

The Cavaliers moved to 9-5 with their sixth win in seven games on Saturday, making this their best start to a season since 2016-17 – a year in which LeBron James led the team to the third of four straight NBA Finals visits.

This latest 91-89 triumph was particularly impressive as Cleveland trailed by 19 points when Mobley returned to the game late in the third quarter.

"We keep talking about chemistry and bonding and belief in one another, and that was on full display tonight," said Bickerstaff. "That's the only way you can explain it.

"There's no basketball reason we should have won that game, but there was a collective spirit that refused to allow us to lose that game. That's what we keep talking about brewing in that locker room.

"Don't get me wrong, some guys made critical plays and carried their weight, but it's the spirit of that basketball team, that has that fight in them, that won't give up."

Several of those critical plays belonged to third overall pick Mobley, who finished with 19 points, nine rebounds, three blocks and two steals in 40 minutes. Of those, 12 points, two blocks and a steal came in the fourth quarter as he played its entirety.

No player in the NBA scored more clutch points than Mobley's six on Saturday, albeit tied with the Celtics' Jayson Tatum – who the Cavs man was asked to stop.

 

"It's the will to win basketball games," Bickerstaff said of Mobley's best trait. "Literally the only thing that matters to him is: how do I help this team win?

"Not only was it the block, but it's the free throws, it's the baseline jumper, it's the post move to get to the finish. It was an array of different things.

"Then at the end of the game, we had him on Jayson Tatum. We put him on the other team's best player. Whatever it takes to win, he's willing to do it.

"He's not satisfied with these small victories or these small moments. He understands what he wants long-term, and he understands that in order to get there, you've got to do it every night.

"He didn't start out blazing, he was working his way through it in the first half. Then as the game got going, he found his way. And when it was clutch time, he stepped up big."

Mobley has quickly proven a threat from anywhere on the court in his short time in the NBA but is especially effective at the rim, making 70.1 per cent of his attempts.

In fact, 36.8 per cent of his successful field goal attempts have been dunks, with his 32 made dunks ranking joint-third in the NBA. Team-mate Jarrett Allen's 47 lead the way, while no team can rival the Cavaliers' combined 98.

Allen's latest dunk put Cleveland up with 35.9 seconds left against Boston, and Darius Garland said: "It's super fun, just bringing all the crowd into it, the arena gets pumped up. I like seeing it a lot."

Bickerstaff, whose team rank fourth in the league for points in the paint (672), added: "We want to put pressure on the rim, and however we can do that, we'll take it.

"Jarrett is an elite lob threat, and when you put that much pressure on the rim, defenses get concerned. Even if it's only two points, it's an emphatic two points, and defenses don't like that. Then they start to collapse and we've got wide open threes.

"We've got guys who we feel like can dominate the paint – that's our objective: offensively, we want to dominate the paint as much as we can."

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