Grizzlies Outlast Cavs in Memphis

Missed Free Throws Costs Cavaliers
Kyrie Irving
In their final back-to-back against the West, the young Cavaliers faced the two hottest teams in the Conference. They dropped both affairs, but each opponent knew they were in a brawl.

On Monday night in Memphis, the Wine and Gold grappled with the Grizz for the full 48, but free throws cost the Cavaliers late – sending Cleveland to the 109-101 loss.

After a seesaw fourth quarter, the Cavs clawed back to tie the affair at 98-apiece when Tristan Thompson canned a pair of free throws with 3:27 to play. On the next possession, Marc Gasol hit a jumper to give Memphis the lead back.

On the Cavs’ next trip down the floor, Kyrie Irving was fouled. But Cleveland’s Rookie of the Year candidate missed a pair of free throws that would’ve tied the game. After a Manny Harris steal, Tristan Thompson was fouled and split a pair to get the Cavs within one, 100-99, with 1:45 to play.

But Memphis took control from there. Gasol drained four more free throws and Mike Conley hit a 20-footer to give the Grizz all the breathing room they’d need down the stretch. The Cavaliers didn’t tally another field goal until Alonzo Gee’s dunk with 8.2 to play.

“I think our guys are continuously competing at a very high level,” said Coach Byron Scott. “As I pointed out to them after the game, the game was so close with three minutes left. We go the next two minutes, 1-for-6 at the free-throw line, and it’s a one-point game at that particular time. I’m very satisfied with how hard we’re playing and especially how well we played tonight.”

Irving’s errant free throws were the first two he’d missed since returning from a shoulder injury, but he didn’t miss much else on Monday. Cleveland’s young gun led all scorers with 25 points, going 10-for-16 from the floor with four assists and three steals.

“I’m really happy with the effort of our guys the last three games,” said Irving. “They’ve really competed and most of the games have come down to the wire, with the exception of the Spurs that got away in the fourth quarter. But here, we really competed for 48 minutes, and it’s just that type of game where the two rookies go 1-of-6 from the free throw line. It just happens.”

Antawn Jamison scored 12 of his 17 points in the first half, pitching in with nine boards and three assists. Tristan Thompson had a solid game in the pivot, finishing with 12 points, nine rebounds and a game-high four blocked shots.

The Cavaliers got 34 points off the bench, led by Manny Harris’ 11.

Both teams shot 46 percent on the night, with the Cavs matching that 46 percent from beyond the arc. The Grizzlies attempted 16 more free throws than Cleveland and converted 17 Cavalier miscues into 21 points.

All five Memphis starters – plus O.J. Mayo – tallied double-figures in the win. Marresse Speights doubled-up with 17 points and 10 boards.

The Cavaliers wrap up the 2011-12 season this week. They welcome the Wizards to town for Fan Appreciation Night on Wednesday and wrap up the campaign on Thursday night in the Windy City against the Bulls.

  • Kyrie Irving picked up right where he left off before injuring his shoulder. In the three games since his return, the leading Rookie of the Year candidate is averaging 18.5 points and 3.5 assists per contest.

  • Even with Monday night’s loss, the Cavaliers were still one of the East’s better road team against the Western Conference, finishing 4-5 – behind only the Bulls and Pacers.

  • Only a handful of No. 1 overall picks over the last two decades have had better scoring averages through their first 50 games as a pro. Shaquille O’Neal is tops at 24.3 ppg in 1992-93. Kyrie averaged 18.7 through his first 50, sixth-best among top overall picks and one spot behind LeBron James.

  • With Alonzo Gee returning to the starting lineup, Manny Harris again came off the bench. But he continued to produce. Over his last five games, the sophomore guard from Michigan’s averaging 13.1 points per contest, shooting .518 from the floor and an even 50 percent (9-for-18) from long-distance.

  • In his final games of the season, Jamison continues to climb up the NBA’s all-time scoring list. After starting the season in 58th place, he passed Gail Goodrich on Friday night and Eddie Johnson – for 44th place – during Sunday’s game in San Antonio. After netting 17 points on Monday night, he’s now just 24 points behind Bob Lanier.