The Cleveland Cavaliers were unable to extend their winning streak to three games as they fell to the Memphis Grizzlies on the road by a final score of 110-96. They had a big lead at halftime, but fell apart in the second half. The Grizzlies outscored the Cavs 56-31 in the final 24 minutes. That's not good.
Let's talk about the first half.
It was beautiful. The Cavs were moving the ball. They were getting easy buckets, hitting tough shots, and playing together. The Cavs scored over 30 points in each of the first two quarters and ended the first half with 65 points. They made a very good Grizzlies defense look downright bad.
Kyrie Irving was scoring in all sorts of ways. Spencer Hawes was doing his thing, spacing the floor and knocking down threes. Tristan Thompson has a solid, patient, efficient first half. Everything was clicking on that side of the floor.
One of the big keys for the first half was how the Cavs were running on offense. They were pushing the pace on virtually every possession. We saw a lot of long outlet passes and Cleveland did a nice job initiating early offense.
On the defensive end, they weren't great. The Grizzlies scored at a relatively high rate (just not as high as the Cavs) and missed a good number of open shots. Courtney Lee was particularly annoying as he hit several shots from behind the arc. Remember, the Grizzlies didn't have Mike Conley last time these two teams played. Memphis is just a completely different offensive team when they have their starting point guard.
The Cavs enjoyed a nice 65-54 lead at the break. But then...
The second half happened.
Oh you mean basketball games aren't 24 minutes long? The Cavaliers came out in the second half and completely fell apart. They were outscored 33-13 in the 3rd quarter. The Grizz went on a 17-0 run at one point and held the Cavs scoreless for six and a half minutes. Everything that worked in the first half went to shit. Cleveland stopped moving on offense. They stopped passing. They started taking stupid shots and nothing went in. I can't express how frustrating it is to see the team just stop doing what was effective.
Of course, the Grizzlies deserve some credit. They really upped their defensive intensity and reworked their offensive game plan. They fed Zach Randolph on the low block and he just ate the Cavs alive. It didn't matter who the Cavs put on him or how they defended him. He just scored over and over and over. It was a truly impressive showing by Z-Bo. He hasn't been the same player this year that we've seen in past seasons...but tonight he was dominant.
I can't really figure out why the Cavs come out and just play *so* horribly in certain halves of games. I mean, they played great in the first half, so it's not like they're just screwing around out there. They looked like a real basketball team for the first 24 minutes. But when the ball isn't moving and shots aren't falling, it gets really hard for this team to score. Of course, it doesn't help that the Cavs don't have an actual shooting guard right now. Matthew Dellavedova and Jarrett Jack were both brutal tonight. Kyrie certainly didn't get any help from either of his backcourt partners tonight. The only guy that had a good second half was Kyrie. He was tremendous and finished with 28 points on 11 of 19 shooting. But it wasn't enough. Give the Grizzlies credit. They made adjustments and played very well to get a nice win at home.
While the Cavs were pushing the tempo in the first half, that basically stopped in the second. Maybe Cleveland was just too tired to continue playing like that for 48 minutes because they were playing their 4th game in 5 nights. But there were just too many possessions that saw the Cavs get into their offense with more than half of the shot clock already gone. Once the Grizzlies' defense had time to get set, it became extremely difficult for the Cavs to get to the basket.
The Cavs are now 4 games behind the Atlanta Hawks for the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference. Their next game is against the San Antonio Spurs (yikes) on Tuesday in Cleveland. Hopefully that's enough of a break to get Anderson Varejao, C.J. Miles, and Dion Waiters healthy. The Cavs really need them.
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