The Cleveland Cavaliers (3-11) are a scrappy team, there’s no doubting that. Just look at how the Cavaliers have played on the road, despite losing eight of nine games. They lost in a buzzer beater in Milwaukee, recorded an impressive win over the Clippers, were in contention for the next four home games, held the 76ers under 90 points, and played both Florida teams and one of the NBA’s best in the Grizzlies on a three-game road trip.
That’s right, the Cavaliers dropped to 1-8 on the road after losing their third straight road game against the Memphis Grizzlies (10-2), 84-78. The Grizzlies average 100.7 points per game, good for seventh in the Association. With Mike Conley (averaging 14.8 points, 6.5 assists) out with a sickness, the Grizzlies were missing a big part of their re-amped offense. The usual suspects, Zach Randolph, Rudy Gay and Marc Gasol, all had great offensive performances in his absence, combing for 53 points (63.1 percent).
It was the amazing effort by Anderson Varejao that kept the Wine and Gold in the game. He registered yet another impressive road performance, logging 15 points and 22 boards on 7-of-11 shooting. Dion Waiters, who has been struggling with his shot selection, only put up two three pointers, but he was aggressive and got to the line for six attempts. He ended up with 15 points and four steals.
The Cavaliers, though, let the game slip away in the fourth quarter, letting the home team score the first six points in the frame. That forced a Cavaliers timeout, and then a reliable Daniel Gibson accounted for the next five points. He totaled 11 points off the bench, Cleveland’s best bench contributor.
The game became locked with five minutes to go, and stayed locked until just under three minutes. The Cavs were playing good defense against one of the most impressive offensive talents of the young NBA season. The Grizzlies broke the seal, and went on a 8-2 runs to end the game. It was another heartbreaking loss to a top tier team.
But the Cavs cost themselves in the end. Despite holding Randolph, who is second in the league to Varejao, to only eight rebounds and outrebounding the Grizzlies 41-38, the Cavaliers struggled to find their shot on offense and only getting a minimal contribution from the bench. The Cavaliers are missing their main component on offense, so Wild Thing has had to carry the load. Only Tristan Thompson and Samardo Samuels shot more than 50 percent from the field along with Andy, as he finishing 7-of-11 (63.6 percent) from the field.
Again, with a team without their best player you have to often look at the positives. The Cavaliers, who usually struggle from the charity stripe, shot 80 percent from the line.
It was also good to see some hustle out of the Cavaliers. When Varejao grabbed the offensive rebound at the end of the third quarter (he totaled eight offensive boards), he let off a long, arching shot for the buzzer beater. He swished it, and it gave the Cavaliers a seven-point lead with 12 minutes to go. The Wine and Gold had momentum on their side once again, but couldn’t play good enough defense down the stretch. The defense was a huge problem at the beginning of the season, but it seems that head coach Byron Scott has morphed this team into a stingy squad.
Scott is happy with how the team has been competing lately, so their record really doesn’t indicate how they’ve played so far this season. They Cavaliers will return home for one game to have a rematch with the Phoenix Suns, which will be played at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.