Despite a furious rally in the final 90 seconds, the Cleveland Cavaliers closed out the preseason portion of their schedule on the wrong side of a 96-92 road decision against the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night.
The Cavaliers held an early two-point lead in the fourth quarter at 71-69, but Memphis put together a 10-1 run to give them the lead for good. Prior to the Cavs final push, they would get no closer than four points, the last time coming on an Alex Kirk layup with 1:25 to go, making it 93-89.
Shane Edwards then scored with one minute remaining on a putback of a Kirk miss, and after the Grizzlies missed their next attempt, Cleveland guard A.J. Price went to the line with a chance to tie the score with 39 seconds remaining. However, after making his first attempt, Price’s second came up short, with Memphis then converting a basket for a three-point lead. Price then made one final bid to send the game to overtime, but his three-pointer with 6.9 seconds to go was off the mark.
That tight finish was a mirror image of the contest’s third quarter, a period in which neither team held more than a four-point lead. The Cavaliers’ last lead during those 12 minutes came on a Lou Amundson layup with 4:21 remaining.
LeBron James sat out this preseason finale, with the Cavs using it as a way to preserve his legs for what the team hopes is a long run into next June. Despite his absence, Cleveland head coach David Blatt said,
“Every game is valuable. Every time we step on the floor, we should be competing to win and to play well.”
During the first half, the Cavaliers had opportunities to take control of the game as Cavs forward Tristan Thompson noted during a halftime interview, saying,
“We have to keep up the pace, and have to stop Marc (Gasol) and Z (Zach Randolph).”
During the opening 24 minutes, that duo had combined for 19 of the Grizzlies’ 42 points, but added only eight more in the second half.
In that opening half, sluggish performances in the first quarter saw both teams endure cold shooting, with the Cavaliers connecting on just eight of 25 outside shots. Six of those baskets came via layups, but the Grizzlies were no better, hitting on only six of 19 field goal attempts, as Cleveland held a 16-14 advantage at the buzzer.
Quarter number two was marked by improved shooting as well as runs from each team, with the Cavaliers running off seven straight points to take a 38-31 lead. That spread quickly disappeared when Memphis went on a 9-2 run to once again knot the score at 40 apiece before the Cavs went to intermission ahead 44-42.
Cleveland will now focus on its regular season opener on Thursday, October 30 against the New York Knicks at the Quicken Loan Arena. Tipoff is set for just after 8 p.m. Eastern, and the game will be nationally televised on TNT.