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Fraternizing With the Enemy: February 11–18

Fraternizing With the Enemy: February 11–18

Welcome to “Fraternizing with the Enemy”, where each week we take a look at the upcoming games from the perspective of the fans and writers who watch them on a daily basis. We’ll review the team’s strengths and weaknesses, some players that might have an influence on the match-up, and what might be the result of the game.

For the Cleveland Cavaliers, we’re joined by Justin Rowan, contributor for Fear the Sword and Real Ball Insiders. He’s also the cohost of the Chase Down Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @Cavsanada.

What is the Cavaliers’ identity this year? What are they good at, and what are they not so good at?

Justin: In terms of identity, I would say that’s a work in progress. With Kevin Love out of the lineup, the team really only has one true offensive hub in LeBron James. The trade deadline has given the team much more length and shooting than it had in the past. They were far more versatile on the defensive end of the floor against the Celtics, but I have to wonder how the offense reacts to when a team keeps them in the half-court. With so many new pieces, I would imagine that a more disciplined defensive effort could make the Cavs beat themselves.

Which Cavaliers player is going to be the one to watch in this matchup, and why?

Justin: The easy answer is LeBron, for obvious reasons. However, George Hill may be the biggest x-factor. We know LeBron can create shots for their shooters but Hill is the only other player on the roster that is capable of getting other players involved.

Is there an under-the-radar Cavaliers player that Thunder fans should be aware of?

Justin: Cedi Osman has finally getting some spotlight lately, in addition to increased playing time. He’s not the most dynamic player, but he is a good athlete with a high basketball IQ. He doesn’t try to do anything he shouldn’t do, and is a very strong defensive player for a rookie.

What’s the biggest key to the Cavaliers winning the game, in your opinion?

Justin: The biggest key would be the health of Russell Westbrook, as if he is inactive that would change the complexion of this match-up. But even if he plays and the ankle is still sore, containing him would have to be the Cavs’ top priority. Westbrook is a force of nature, with an endless amount of drive. Making things difficult or him and causing him to take lower percentage shots and turn the ball over would make things far easier for Cleveland. They failed to do that in the first match-up, and….we all saw how that went.

Who wins, and why?

Justin: After the Cavs win in Boston, they’re due for a letdown game. There are going to be growing pains along the way, so I anticipate a Thunder win.

Since the Thunder played the Memphis Grizzlies last night, we can refer back to Christian Dudley’s excellent piece from last week. Here are a few highlights from that piece:

What is the Grizzlies’ identity this year? What are they good at, and what are they not so good at?

Christian: When Memphis began the season with a league-best 6-1 record, they were a strong defensive club with an up-tempo offense — quicker than previous seasons.

However, with Mike Conley becoming sidelined with a nagging Achilles injury, the team lost their conductor. Though Marc Gasol can be a great player, Conley is really the guy who allows the Grizzlies to operate at a high level. Now with the team sitting at 18-34, the team does not have much of an identity. Last Wednesday, they literally sent their top player, Tyreke Evans, home as they are looking to trade him to a contending team.

It is all very strange in Grizz Nation right now. Young guys — rookies and sophomores — are playing a great deal of minutes, which is very much unlike Grizzly squads of the past. Marc Gasol is still an all-around threat at the five-spot, but he cannot do it all by himself.

It truly is “tank mode” for the Memphis Grizzlies, and Grizz fans hope they will, at the very least, be competitive. The Grizzlies have mostly been able to provide close finishes, albeit oftentimes in a losing effort. However, the real value lies in the development of their youth, especially Dillon Brooks, Ivan Rabb, Deyonta Davis, and Wayne Selden.

Which Grizzlies player is going to be the one to watch in this matchup, and why?

Christian: Marc Gasol is definitely the player to watch on Memphis’s side. He is typically a 20-point/10-rebound threat, and without many consistent options to look for scoring from, Big Spain is the focal point. Gasol at least provides a chance of hope at winning games.

Aside from the obvious, you can expect one of the trio of Dillon Brooks, Andrew Harrison, and Wayne Selden to score in double figures, especially if Gasol receives the double team in the post — he loves to pass to open teammates. It comes down to the youngsters finding the bottom of the hoop.

What’s the biggest key to the Grizzlies winning the game, in your opinion?

Christian: The Memphis Grizzlies absolutely must contain Russell Westbrook if they want to snag a victory. Though you cannot really “contain” Russ, they need to slow him down from the start. The Grizz cannot provide open looks for OKC, otherwise, it will be a long and miserable night. It may be a tale of too many stars for Memphis to stop.

Thanks to our guests for their contributions to this week’s Fraternizing With the Enemy. Join us next week for another installment.