Well that was an ugly game. And that's exactly how Mike Brown likes it. Unfortunately, that's also exactly how the Memphis Grizzlies like it. This was a game that featured more 24-second violations than I think I've seen in any other NBA game this season. Or at least that's how it felt. Both teams had to work incredibly hard for their offense. That's how the Cavs want to play defense every night. Unfortunately, they won't be playing the Grizzlies (without Mike Conley) every night. But the energy and effort was there for Cleveland. They played hard and seemed to really commit to the defensive end, so that's nice. In the end, the Cavs clinched their 2nd straight victory by taking out the Grizzlies 91-83 in overtime.
The Cavs led 44-33 at halftime. They allowed just 33 points in a half, really. It was neat. The 2nd half started on a bad note, but the Cavs still led by one point after the third quarter. The Grizzlies also hit two ridiculous shots as the buzzer sounded -- once at the end of a shot clock and once at the end of the quarter. It was silly and made me upset.
The Cavs really competed for this entire game, which is a lot more than we can say for most of their games this season. They held a nice lead in the 4th quarter, but then JAMES JOHNSON HAPPENED. Yes, James Johnson. He scored 13 straight points for the Grizzlies. That's a pretty ridiculous thing for a guy who legitimately wasn't in the league earlier this season.
The Cavs' defense was excellent all night, but they really clamped down in the final minute. They trailed 78-74 and got multiple stops in a row to give themselves a chance. It's what Mike Brown has been preaching all year. If they play good defense, they can keep themselves in games. I understand that people are frustrated with the lack of consistent offense, but having a defense-first mindset is a perfectly good way to win a lot of games. The Grizzlies have had great success doing it. And once the offensive talent on this team meshes, they'll have their defense to fall back on.
Kyrie Irving played another pretty nice game. He had 28 points on 9 of 17 shooting against a really good defense. Again, it's not the same as going up against Mike Conley, but it's still nice to see. He made a ridiculous layup in the final seconds to tie the game at 78, but missed the free throw to complete the and-1. That meant that the Cavs had to defend for a final possession and they did a *great* job. Memphis didn't even get a shot off as Zach Randolph was stripped and on to overtime we went.
In the overtime period, the Cavs again relied on their defense. They hit some tough shots but it was really their defensive intensity that shut down the Grizzlies. Memphis scored just 5 points in the final 7:10 of this game. Not bad.
There was an interesting moment in the fourth quarter when Dion Waiters was initiating the offense and Kyrie was playing off the ball. Kyrie was in the corner and Waiters passed to him, but Kyrie had moved. It was clearly just a miscommunication, but it resulted in a turnover. Kyrie and Waiters were talking about it before the next possession and it was funny to see how Twitter reacted to that.
Here's another. RT @_Believeland: Kyrie and Dion jawing at one another. GEE. THIS IS A LOT OF FUN.— Conrad Kaczmarek (@ConradKazNBA) February 10, 2014
Are they teammates talking about a play or are they bitching about who's fault it was? The world may never know!
Prior to the game, interim general manager David Griffin talked to the media. One of the things that Griffin really wanted to stress was a happier, less angry and sad culture. In other words, more smiles.
#Cavs acting GM Griffin: "I want to see us smile more. ... We don't have to look cool. We have to look like we're in love with this."— Sam Amico (@SamAmicoFSO) February 9, 2014
There were lots of smiles in the Q tonight, especially after this monster dunk by Dion Waiters in the final minute of overtime. He caught the Memphis defense napping and put the exclamation point on this win.
The Cavaliers buckled down and found a way to win for the second straight game. Is this progress? I have no idea. If they continue to play hard and learn to stick together when things get tough, it can be. But if they just collapse and go back to their old ways in a few games, then this doesn't mean a whole lot. I really want to say that the Cavs learned something tonight and will use that to be better throughout the rest of the season, but we'll just have to wait and see.
For some Memphis perspective on this game, head on over to Grizzly Bear Blues.
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