The Memphis Grizzlies came to town Sunday after grinding out a historic 79-76 win against the Atlanta Hawks the night before. With the Grizzlies on the second night of a back-to-back and missing guards Mike Conley and Tony Allen, the Cavaliers were going for their second win in a row after a victory over the Washington Wizards on Friday ended a six-game losing streak.
The Cavaliers came out with good energy in the first quarter. The entire team did a nice job on defense and passing the ball, although the game was played that the Grizzlies’ pace. The Cavaliers were able to take a 22-18 point lead at the end of the first mostly due to 14 points from Kyrie Irving.
During the second quarter the Cavaliers began to pick up the pace of the game and take better shots, and led by fourteen midway through the quarter. The Grizzlies made a small run at the end of the half, but the Cavaliers still went to the locker room with a 42-33 lead.
As has been typical of this season, the Cavaliers came out of the locker room looking like they were in some sort of food coma. The Grizzlies dominated the third quarter and even briefly took the lead before the Cavaliers were able to regain it and enter the fourth leading 59-58.
During the fourth, the Cavaliers started out aggressively and were able to build the lead back up to nine, and then James Johnson happened. Johnson channeled his inner Jordan to score 13 straight points for the Grizzlies and Memphis led by four with about a minute left. However the Cavaliers kept up the solid effort they had given all game and Irving was able to tie it on an and-one layup. After he missed the free throw, we were headed to overtime at the Q.
Those five minutes were fairly anticlimactic. Led by a brilliant display from Dion Waiters the Cavaliers scored thirteen points in overtime compared to only five for Memphis. While they shot just under 40 percent, Cleveland held Memphis to 38 percent shooting and won their second game in a row after losing six straight. Hopefully the last two games have shown this team what they are capable of with consistent effort.
PG Kyrie Irving – Irving was terrific tonight, finishing with twenty-eight points on 9-17 shooting (4-4 from three) to go along with six assists, five rebounds, a steal, and a block. He carried the Cavaliers early with fourteen points in the first quarter and was then quiet until scoring five quick points midway through the third. The fact that this night didn’t really seem to stand out shows how special this 21 year old All-Star really is.
SG Jarrett Jack- The move to the starting lineup hasn’t helped Jack’s struggles. If anything they’ve made them worse. Tonight he finished with two points, three rebounds, and 1 assist on 1-4 shooting. At one point he had his shot blocked on two straight possessions. At this point the only thing harder to envision than how Jack can contribute to the Cavaliers for the next three years is how the organization can move him without taking on a contract that is even worse.
SF Luol Deng – Deng still hasn’t quite come out of his recent slump, but he was solid if unspectacular tonight. The veteran small forward finished with nine points on 4-9 shooting to go along with five rebounds. He also played solid defense and this three pointer and steal in overtime helped seal the win.
PF Tristan Thompson – Thompson struggled tonight, battling foul trouble and finishing with just four points and three rebounds. He did play solid defense on Zach Randolph in the first half, but still needs to work on improving his consistency in all facets of the game.
C Anderson Varejao– Along with Irving and Waiters, Varejao had a huge night for the Cavaliers. While Andy only had four points, he chipped in fourteen rebounds, five assists, and played terrific defense when matched up against either Randolph or Marc Gasol in a gutsy forty-five minutes.
BENCH STAR: Watching Dion Waiters is always an emotional experience for me. He mixes amazing displays of ability with poor shot selection, excessive dribbling, and inconsistent effort on defense. All of that was on display this evening as he shot 7-21 to finish with 18 points and six assists. That being said, Waiters was dominant in overtime for the Cavaliers, highlighted by a terrific pass to Deng for a corner three and later hitting the dagger with a thunderous dunk on a drive down the lane.
COACH’S CORNER: Head Coach Mike Brown was pleased with his team’s effort, pointing out the play of Varejao, Irving, Deng, and Waiters, as well as the effort of the team as a whole. Hopefully the Cavaliers have at least turned the corner as far as effort is concerned.
The Cavaliers are at home again on Tuesday when the Sacramento Kings come to town. After the 44 point beat down the Kings dealt them last month, the Cavaliers should have plenty of motivation to continue their current winning streak