Two teams came together on Saturday (March 1) after coming off back-to-back games. The Memphis Grizzlies had just lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder 113-107 on the road. The Cleveland Cavaliers had rolled over the Utah Jazz.
So, with Memphis looking to avoid two consecutive losses and Cleveland playing well as of late, something had to give. For a while, it seemed as if it would be the Grizzlies, who had a seriously cold first half before rallying for a 110-96 victory, with forward Zach Randolph leading the way.
"I thought it was more that he (Zach Randolph) decided to establish himself," said Cavaliers head coach Mike Brown. "In the first half we were the ones who were more physical. We were the ones that were hitting first.
"Then in the second half he came out and he said, 'You know what? I'm going to get the ball whether it's in a post-up situation or off the glass. I'm going to get it, and I'm going to do what I do.' He did it time after time after time, so you have to give him credit."
Randolph was held to just six points in the first half. He came back with a vengeance, scoring 23 points and 14 rebounds. adding four steals and four assists.
"I just wanted to be aggressive in the second half. Just pick my spots, try and get it going, you know play my game," Randolph said. "We came out and imposed our will on the defensive end," he said of the second half.
The Grizzlies' defense was near non-existent in the first half. They went into the split down by 11 (54-65). Trailing by 10 with 9:36 left in the third quarter, Memphis surged, going on a 17-0 spurt. During that frame they tied the game with 6:15 left in the third quarter and took a seven-point lead (87-80) going into the final period.
"It was the effort, energy and focus," Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger said of the comeback. "(Cleveland) was drilling us in the pick-and-roll. We weren't playing hard enough. We were making one, two or three efforts. The energy picked up and we made multiple efforts and they didn't get a lot of second chances. Six times we got three stops in a row in the second half alone, so I'm really happy about that."
Starting point guard Mike Conley and center Marc Gasol both pitched in 22 points, with Conley passing out seven assists. Conley was clutch down the stretch, with two three-point shots and a long two to keep the Grizzlies on top.
"He's struggled a little bit since he came back from the injury and from the All-Star break, so it was really nice to have him see a couple baskets go down," Joerger said of Conley.
Tony Allen came off the bench with 16 points.
"When we make it a point of emphasis that we are a defensive team, that's where we hang our hats," Allen said. "They were killing us on a pick-and-roll. Coach came in and told us about the coverage we were doing. Pretty much, they were just out working us. Once we got in tune with what they were doing, we were able to execute defensively."
Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving led all scorers with 28 points followed by Tristan Thompson with 18. Spencer Hawes pitched in 13 points.
"They had a hit-first mentality," Irving said. "They knew they were coming and they made their run and we made our run... (We) just couldn't withstand that, that one-two punch with Marc (Gasol) and Z-bo (Zach Randolph). They were the better team tonight, so you have to give it to them."
* The Grizzlies held Cleveland to 31 points in the second half, after surrendering 65 in the first half.
* The loss for the Cavaliers snapped a four-game Western Conference winning streak.
* Memphis has now won a season-high five consecutive games at home, its longest home winning streak since winning a franchise-record 13 consecutive home games from Feb. 8 – April 9, 2013.
* The Grizzlies now hit the road to take on the Washington Wizards (Monday), the Brooklyn Nets (Wednesday) and the Chicago Bulls (Friday).