When the slumping Miami Heat play host to the woeful Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday night at AmericanAirlines Arena, it will be the Florida franchise’s first home game since Feb. 9.
The Heat, who lost to the New Orleans Pelicans 124-123 in overtime on Friday night, have lost eight of their past nine games, putting the franchise in danger of missing the playoffs.
Miami (30-29) is a defensive-minded team, ranking third in points allowed, although some of that has to do with their slow pace of play (28th out of 30 teams in that category).
Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley (heel) is gone for the season, having played only 12 games, and wing Chandler Parsons (knee) has been severely limited.
The Grizzlies, who will miss the playoffs after qualifying for seven consecutive years, have seen their 14 players miss a combined 175 games due to injury or illness this season.
That situation could be made worse by the time they arrive in Miami since guard Tyreke Evans left the Cleveland game midway through the fourth quarter due to a rib injury.
“We may have our shortcomings,” Grizzlies interim coach JB Bickerstaff said in a massive understatement told to the Commercial Appeal, “but our effort and competitive nature are still there.”
“I just think being the leader of this team, I don’t think he thinks he can take games off, because, you know, guys being hurt and going through a rough patch, and now new guys coming in,” Lue said before the Cavs’ 112-89 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday. “So, I think he’s trying to lead and lead by example … I think we still got to be smart about the situation, but [the training staff] say he feels good.”
Friday was the 58th game of the Cavs season and the 58th that James played in. He recorded a triple-double (18 points, 14 rebounds, 11 assists) in 37 minutes of action.
Last season, James rested in the Cavs’ 11th game of the season and played in 74 games total.
Cleveland came into the season with eight new players, then went through a rotation shuffle in late December through early January when Isaiah Thomas and Tristan Thompson were worked back onto the court after rehabbing injuries and are in the midst of more change since dealing away six players and adding four more in their place at the trade deadline.