While the Memphis Grizzlies continue to pile up wins, they had to fight their way back in their last game.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are coming off an impressive comeback of their own.
Looking for their first win in Cleveland in almost a decade, the Grizzlies try for a fourth consecutive victory over the Cavaliers on Friday night, and they likely won't have to deal with Kyrie Irving while they do it.
Memphis (40-19) has won 10 of 11, with its only loss coming 98-91 at Eastern Conference-leading Miami last Friday. The Grizzlies handily bounced back two nights later with a 108-82 victory at Orlando, then beat Portland 91-85 on Wednesday after trailing by 17 in the third quarter. This came a week after they erased a 25-point deficit in a 90-84 win over Dallas.
"I don't like being down 17 or 25, but being in those situations, we get a taste of it, and we find who we are," said Mike Conley, who scored 20 against the Trail Blazers.
"We're not always going out there blowing people out. We're winning close games. We're having to come back. Every night is a different night, and for us to win in different ways is good."
The Grizzlies have won three straight over the Cavaliers (21-40), but they've all been played in Memphis. They won 84-78 on Nov. 26, while Conley and Irving both sat out.
The Grizzlies have been outscored by an average of 11.7 points in losing seven straight in Cleveland since November 2003, though, only one of those defeats came since LeBron James left town.
Friday marks the first meeting between these teams since Memphis - in an effort to clear salary - sent Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington, Josh Selby and a future first-round draft pick to Cleveland in exchange for Jon Leuer on Jan. 22.
Providing significant contributions since the trade, Speights and Ellington combined for 30 points and 13 rebounds Wednesday in a thrilling 104-101 win over Utah. Irving scored 11 of his 20 points over the last 4:21 and had 10 assists for Cleveland, which trailed by 12 with just over seven minutes to go.
"Merry Christmas to us. We got lucky. That was a gift, basically," coach Byron Scott said. "I told them after the game that we can't come out and play like that and expect to come back and win a basketball game."
That is especially true with Irving in street clothes.
Irving is doubtful for this game with an illness. He also continues to play through knee pain, and Scott said he would consider shutting him down if the problems persist. The Cavs are 4-10 without their All-Star point guard.
Speights is averaging 12.7 points and 6.3 boards with Cleveland after averaging 6.6 and 4.7 this season with Memphis. Ellington, who's started the last two games in place of the ill Dion Waiters, has recorded 11.1 points per contest over his last 13.
The Cavaliers have won four straight and seven of 10 when Ellington scores at least 10.
"He's solid," Scott said. "That's the thing about Wayne. I trust him when he's out there because I know he's going to do all the right things. ... He plays within himself and he competes. He's not afraid of the moment."
Waiters, averaging 19.9 points on 52.5 percent shooting over a seven-game stretch, is questionable to suit up Friday.
Zach Randolph, Memphis' leader with 15.7 points and 11.6 rebounds, seems unlikely to play after missing the last two games with an ankle injury.
Marc Gasol is averaging 20.0 points over the last four games for the Grizzlies.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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