Grizzlies stop Cavaliers, LeBron sits
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- With one game left before the regular season begins, the Memphis Grizzlies improved to 3-4 in the preseason with Wednesday's 96-92 win against the LeBron James-less Cavaliers.
Marc Gasol's 16 points and nine rebounds led the team. Quincy Pondexter scored 15, one of seven in double figures that included Nick Calathes, Kosta Koufos and Jon Leuer off the bench.
Memphis hosts Miami on Friday before tipping off the regular season on Oct. 29 against Minnesota. Here are three takeaways from a game that had plenty of LeBron jerseys and no LeBron at FedExForum.
Leuer is expected to have a much-expanded role behind Zach Randolph at power forward. Leuer sat the first half but played a quality 14 minutes, 58 seconds in the second half. He hit his first three shots and finished 3-of-6 shooting with 10 points, including a 3-pointer, and made 3-of-4 from the line. Two of the free shots came after he was fouled as he aggressively attacked the rim on what might have been #The1 on Thursday morning's Fox Sports Live.
"Just tried to come in and be aggressive and bring energy and do whatever I could to help the team," Leuer said.
Leuer averaged 12 minutes per game in 49 appearances last season. That, along with his 6.2 points and 3.2 rebounds per game, were all career highs.
He was active Wednesday, adding three rebounds and an assist to his stat line. Leuer hasn't started a game since his rookie year in Milwaukee and barring injuries, he won't start any games this season. He may eclipse last year's career-high in appearances.
"I feel like my game is similar," he said, "like I said, bring energy, stretch the floor, make plays for myself and my teammates ... everything that you need to do to be a good contributor has always been my focus and is going to continue to be no matter what my role is."
In its final preseason game, Cleveland (5-2) played without one piece, but even without its king, Memphis was holding its head high after holding a team with plenty of firepower to 41 percent shooting and 92 points. Kyrie Irving scored a game-high 16, Kevin Love had 12 and eight rebounds.
"We're definitely coming together," Pondexter said. "I think they were missing one player that's pretty good, but we've got to keep testing it out. We hang our hat on that defensive end."
With LeBron or not, Memphis coach Dave Joerger noted that eight times, the Grizzlies got three stops in a row and did a pretty good job of keeping guys out of the paint.
The Cavs had 38 points in the paint, a number skewed by the Grizzlies' 13 turnovers and Cleveland's 22 fast-break points.
"I thought guys played really hard defensively," Joerger said. "We were active, got a lot deflections tonight."
Memphis forced 19 turnovers, three from Dion Waiters while the Cavs guard was scoring 12 of his 15 points in the first half. Cleveland shot 50 and 53 percent in the second and third quarters, but 32 and 36 in the first and fourth. The Grizzlies blocked six shots, two each from Vince Carter and Gasol.
Former Grizzly Mike Miller had a pair of the Cavs' 18 turnovers.
"They are the same 'ole Grizzlies, always good defensively," Miller said. "They share the ball offensively. They play inside-out. They are always going to be good.
All the offseason talk about who Memphis would start on the wing ended this week when Joerger penned in top defender Tony Allen and perimeter shooter Courtney Lee.
Joerger said this game would be a dress rehearsal, but Lee missed it, day-to-day with a "minor" ankle injury. Pondexter started alongside Allen.
Allen started only 28 of the 55 games he played last season after starting all 79 a year earlier and 57-of-58 the year before that. He missed 12 games with a ligament injury in his left hand leading to coming off the bench after a late-February return.
"It's going to be a little bit different playing Tony and Courtney together," Joerger said. "We need to see what teams try to take advantage of and be able to adapt, instead of it be the first time we see it."
Memphis has gotten consistent minutes for Pondexter, who missed last season with a stress fracture in his right foot.
Pondexter scored 15 points on 3-of-7 shooting and made two of the five 3s he attempted. He also had five rebounds, two assists and a blocked shot. In five preseason games, he is averaging nearly 13 points and three rebounds in 25 minutes and is shooting 45 percent from the field and 43 percent from deep.
Joerger gushed about the Pondexter potential, saying he is finding his rhythm with different combinations and that he tells him he's going to help win a lot of games and he thinks he'll play "a good chuck of minutes," to cut himself some slack after the nine-month layoff, stopping after calling him a "great guy."
"He said all that?" Pondexter said. "I'm just really glad the team's taking a chance on me."