MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Cavaliers coach David Blatt called the Grizzlies "a well-oiled machine" prior to Wednesday’s game in Memphis. It was his buzz saw that ripped its way to a dominating 111-89 win. Here are three takes from a game the Grizzlies (50-22) won’t want to repeat Friday against the West-leading Warriors.
1. Cleveland’s Cavs put on a clinic
The ball movement and sync the Cavaliers (47-26) played with was a thing of basketball beauty, unless you were wearing a Grizzlies jersey among the sellout crown inside FedExForum.
After scoring 33 points in the second quarter, Cleveland upped the mark with 36 in the third. The Cavs had 30 assists on 43 makes and all 14 makes in the third quarter were assisted.
"We know how great they are defensively, especially in this building," said LeBron James (20 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists). "Plus to move the ball and share the ball like we did, in the facet like we did, it was very impressive."
Asked after the game what got his team started, Blatt semi-joked: "The beginning of the game."
But in the beginning, Memphis trailed only three after a quarter. It was in the second that it started to unravel, as Cleveland shot 46 percent and Kyrie Irving hit 10 of his game-high 24 points.
Cleveland was still doing it up 23 in the fourth quarter, a swing from Irving to J.R. Smith to Kevin Love for the Cavs’ 11th 3-pointer of the night, Love’s 22nd point. Love finished as efficient as his team, making 10 of 13 for 22 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and a couple of blocks.
Against the mighty West, Cleveland is now 14-1 in its last 15 and claimed a second double-digit win against Memphis.
2. Randolph missed a bunch, but he wasn’t alone
You’ll have to turn the calendar back nearly a year to find the last time Zach Randolph was held to Wednesday’s season-low five points. In 20 minutes, Randolph made 2-of-8 shots and had three rebounds.
"We haven’t had one of them in a long time," he said. "They played good. They’re a good team. We didn’t play good, including myself."
Memphis missed plenty of shots (48 to be exact), but plenty under the goal, too. The starting five combined to make 16-of-44 shots, center Marc Gasol the most efficient with 18 points on 7 of 15. Courtney Lee, back from a sprained wrist, missed all three of his shots. Off the bench, Beno Udrih scored 15 points on 7 of 10.
The 3-point shot came back to Earth. The Grizzlies had surprisingly made 36 3-pointers over the last four games, three wins. Mike Conley made 2 of 3 against the Cavs. Tony Allen made one and Jordan Adams hit a late one, a 4 of 17 team finish.
"A lot of things (went wrong)," Allen said, "missed opportunities at the basket. I thought the coverages, whatever the case may be, they were able to pick us apart."
3. Things get no easier with Warriors looming
Memphis has the second toughest remaining schedule in the league, starting Friday vs. Golden State, which will operate much the same way the Cavs did while picking the Grizzlies apart.
"They get inside the defense with a great point guard like Kyrie Irving with Stephen Curry," Allen said. "They put pressure on defense and we’re going to have to be able to defend that. Nobody is going to feel sorry for us."
The Grizzlies and Cavs sit with the second seed in their respective conferences, but Memphis’ final 10 games features only three teams with a losing record. And the lead on third-seed Houston is 1 and a 1/2 games.
After the final question of Joerger’s post game address, he flashed a quick smile and added one final thought.
"We’re gonna be fine," he said.
Getting fine starts Friday with Golden State, a buzz saw in its own right, and Sunday at San Antonio, perhaps the NBA’s most-infamous buzz saw.
Allen nailed it. Neither are feeling sorry for the Grizzlies, especially not Golden State, which in Dec. here lost 105-98.
52.2 — That’s what the Cavs shot from the floor, including making 14-of-34 3-pointers.
25 of 49 — Memphis scored 50 paint points, but missed 24 shots from point-blank range.