The Cleveland Cavaliers played a solid first half, had a terrible third quarter, and couldn’t get enough in the fourth to pull out a win. Sound familiar?
It should because this has happened a ton this season to Cleveland. Memphis worked the Cavs in the second half, and the Cavs didn’t do anything to adjust to it. Let’s hope the Cavs play better on Tuesday in San Antonio.
The Cavs fired right out of the gate with a flurry on offense. The Grizzlies didn’t have an answer for Spencer Hawes, as he pick-n-popped his way to six quick points out of the gate. Kyrie Irving also did a fair amount of damage, as the Cavs moved the ball well and played with great energy to build up a 20-10 lead. However, the Cavs’ bench unit struggled with Kyrie sitting, and the Cavs ended the quarter only up 30-22, mainly because Marc Gasol hit a bananas 60-foot shot at the buzzer. However, it was still a promising beginning to the game, as the Grizzlies just couldn’t handle the hop in the Cavaliers’ step.
The second quarter was a shift from mostly hustle to just getting great open looks. The offensive flow continued, as the Cavs were running more complex plays and working the ball more than we have seen for most of the season. Spearheading this much like in the first quarter, were Hawes, Irving, and Tristan Thompson. Thompson was great at finishing at the rim, finishing 6-7 in the first half for 14 points and five rebounds, while Hawes was perfect from outside for 11 points, and Kyrie had 13 on 6-9 shooting.
The Cavs shot 61.4 percent for the half overall, one of their most impressive offensive outputs of the season. The Cavs also outrebounded the Grizzlies 20-13, which was very impressive as well. Really, Marc Gasol was the Grizzlies’ only offensive threat, with 15 points on 6-8 shooting, But Tayshaun Prince missed every shot he took after scoring Memphis’s opening basket, and the Grizzlies shot 52 percent from the floor, which is solid, but not enough when you are allowing the Cavs to get in the paint as much as they did. With a 65-54 lead at the half, things seemed to be in good shape.
The third quarter can just be called “regressing to the mean.” The Cavs, in short, got outscored 33-15 in the third frame, allowing Memphis to get whatever they wanted offensively while falling back to 54 percent shooting from the field. Leading the charge for Memphis was Zach Randolph, who worked Tristan Thompson slowly away from the basket with jumpers, and had 19 points after three quarters. He helped open up the floor for Tony Allen and Courtney Lee, and the Grizzlies’ offense actually seemed fluid and efficient in the third, which it hadn’t in the first half thanks to the Cavs’ effort on defense. Meanwhile the Cavs struggled to get anything going outside of Irving and Thompson in the third, as Luol Deng took over with a bunch of shots, which did not fall. After three quarters, Deng had 10 points on 13 shots. Kyrie had 21 on 14 shots. Why the Cavs continued to let Deng do what he wanted offensively is beyond me, but the end result was something we see commonly with the Cavs: An unwillingness to make halftime adjustments, complacent offense, and an 11-point lead turning into a seven-point deficit.
The fourth quarter was much more of a battle, however. The Grizzlies continued to play excellent defense, but their offense struggled to keep up its torrid pace from the third quarter. With Tristan continuing to cook inside (he had 18 on 8-10 shooting), and a few nicely timed buckets from Jarrett Jack and Kyrie, the Cavs pulled back within one, 95-94. However, Zach Randolph and Mike Conley continued to attack the Cavs, with Conley hitting a potential dagger with three minutes remaining to make it 100-94. Conley hit another bucket after a timeout, Luol Deng countered with a bricked fast-break floater, and that was basically all she wrote for competitive play in this game.
PG Kyrie Irving – 28 points (11-19 shooting, 3-8 from three), three assists, three steals
This game was reminiscent of late December or early January. For much of the second half, it seemed that Kyrie was the only person who could create a shot for the Cavaliers, and he attacked the Grizzlies defense consistently for a solid effort. His defense was consistent for three quarters, but fell apart late as Mike Conley took over in the fourth quarter. Overall, Kyrie had a solid night, and it was more his teammates who couldn’t pick up the slack on offense.
SG Jarrett Jack – six points (3-6 shooting, 0-1 from three), three rebounds, five assists
When the Cavs’ offense was flowing, Jack did a great job of moving the ball and facilitating his teammates. Defensively he was a sieve as usual, particularly when charged with guarding Tony Allen, which was apparently too much for him. However, Jack could have been much worse, and his passing was acceptable.
SF Luol Deng – 11 points (5-14 shooting, 0-1 from three), six rebounds, two assists
Okay, soapbox for a minute. Luol Deng has been garbage for the Cavs since they traded for him. This is a guy who was an All-Star last year. Now he switches between acceptable second option and legitimate negative for the team. Tonight he was a negative. Deng took over the third quarter (and not in a good way), going 1-4 from the field with four terrible shots. He couldn’t finish at the rim, didn’t defend well at all, and he was more frustrating to watch than anyone besides Jack has been this season. Again, he was averaging 19/7/4 on 45 percent shooting for the Bulls this year. For the Cavs? 15/5/2 on 41 percent shooting. He’s been terrible this year, relative to expectations.
PF Tristan Thompson – 18 points (8-10 shooting), eight rebounds
Offense: Awesome! Tristan was the beneficiary of some solid ball movement on offense for the Cavs, floating into dead zones in the Memphis defense and finishing at the rim against the fearsome Randolph/Gasol tandem.
Defense: Terrible! Thompson gave up seven offensive rebounds and 23 points to Z-Bo. This was a legitimate two-face game from Thompson.
C Spencer Hawes – 13 points (5-12 shooting, 3-5 frome three), four rebounds, three assists
Hawes was charged with defending, and being defended by, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. That’s a tough matchup, and Hawes did well, all things considered. He had only 2 points in the second half, but he was a huge part of the Cavs’ offensive efficiency in the first half, and while he gave up 22 points to Marc Gasol, it could have been worst. I’m the resident Hawes fan on this site, but believe me: He did a pretty good job tonight.
Tyler Zeller – nine points (3-6 shooting), five rebounds, two blocks
Only because I had to pick someone. The bench wasn’t good tonight, mainly because we’re missing three guys, and that’s what happens to any bench. Come back soon, Dion Waiters and Anderson Varejao. We need you.
When you go into half with an 11 point lead and make no discernable adjustments, then get killed in the second half by getting clearly out-coached, you’ve done a pretty bad job. David Joerger was awesome tonight, keeping his cool and helping the Grizzlies get going in the second half. Mike Brown was a joke.