NBA Basketball

James, Cavs make lone visit to Memphis to meet Grizzlies

LeBron James makes his one and only annual visit to Memphis, Tenn., under less-than-ideal circumstances Friday night when the Cleveland Cavaliers play the Memphis Grizzlies.

James was pressed into 36 minutes of action Thursday night, during which he produced 32 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, when the Cavaliers returned from the All-Star break with a hard-fought, 110-103 home loss to the Washington Wizards.

The Cavaliers get no break Friday, having to fly into Memphis to face a Grizzlies team that will be well rested following a nine-day break.

It will be the Cavaliers' only road outing in their first seven games following the All-Star Game, in which James earned Most Valuable Player honors.

Memphis hasn't been James' favorite place to visit in his career.

He was held to 12 and 20 points in his last two visits -- both well below his scoring average -- in games the Cavaliers were able to win.

He came away on the losing end the previous four times despite much greater offensive production, including 37- and 43-point contests.

James brings a team this time that, despite Thursday's loss, has won four of five, and already owns a 116-111 home win over the Grizzlies this season.

Cleveland is 3-1 since reshaping its roster at the trade deadline, acquiring George Hill, Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr.

The foursome contributed 29 points to Thursday's loss to Washington.

Given a preference, the Cavaliers would have stayed home and practiced Friday. The new-look team has held only one home workout together, that being Wednesday.

"We'll have to use shootarounds as practice time. Not a lot of days off now," Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue lamented. "Just got to be smart about it so guys get their rest, but also make sure we're teaching and letting guys come in so they'll be able to pick up what we're trying to do."

The Grizzlies were able to get in an additional workout Thursday in hopes of a better "second half" than the 18-38 record they produced before the All-Star break.

Memphis will take the court Friday having lost seven in a row, including two straight at home.

The Grizzlies find themselves well out of playoff contention for the first time in eight years. In fact, they have a far better chance of earning the No. 1 pick in the draft than they do of making the postseason.

Memphis went into the All-Star break tied with Sacramento, Dallas, Phoenix, Orlando and Atlanta for the fewest wins in the NBA with 18.

The Grizzlies haven't picked higher than No. 12 since taking Hasheem Thabeet with the second overall selection in 2009.

Veteran center Marc Gasol hopes his club focuses on winning games, not winning the lottery, over the final 26 contests.

"You've got to find reasons why you should play hard," he professed. "First of all, it's your job, and there's a lot of people supporting the team. I don't see any reasons why people should not play hard, whatever the goal or whatever the record is. Somebody that doesn't play hard, that doesn't believe in the team, doesn't deserve to be here."

Updated February 22, 2018

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