You would have thought a team that just beat the defending NBA champions Los Angeles Lakers the night before, would have been a tougher test for the Cleveland Cavaliers. That was not the case Tuesday night as the Cavaliers romped over the energy-drained Memphis Grizzles 105-89.
The Cavaliers (39-11) used precision passing, tenacious defense, and breakaway layups to put away the Grizzlies early, as they jumped out to as many as 20 in the first half. The Grizzlies were coming off a 95-93 win over the Lakers the night before in Memphis, but seemed to lack the adrenaline needed to compete against a hot Cavaliers squad. The Cavaliers extended their season long winning streak to nine.
Cleveland has won its past four games by an average of 19 points and have out-rebounded their opponents in 17 of their last 18 games. And the Cavaliers are 28-1 this season when scoring 100-plus points.
Shaquille O’Neal and Zydrunas Ilgauskas combined for 27 points and 18 rebounds, as they controlled the paint all night long. “He looks great,” Cavs star LeBron James said of Shaq after the game.“He’s motivated. When Mo and Delonte went down he decided to step his game up, which we knew he could do. He's just playing with a little bounce in his step that he didn't have at the start. But he had a different mindset than we all thought. We all thought he was playing slow, he was just saving himself for the second half of the season.”
James had his typical double-double night, as he had a quiet 22 points and 15 assists as he spread the ball around to all his teammates, especially J.J. Hickson who electrified the Cavs home crowd as he dunked an alley-oop pass from James with one hand. Hickson added 14 points for the Cavaliers.
"He sees things other players don't see," Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins said. "He attacks the basket and throws it out for a 3. He attacks the basket, then throws it for a layup. He gets the ball on one side, he's not looking, but he sees the guy and whips it all the way across the court for another 3-pointer.
"He's just a great player. I don't know much more that you can say about him," he said. Five different players were in double figures as the Cavs outscored the best paint-scoring team in the NBA, 64-34 in the paint.
For the fifth time in the seven games Cavaliers point guard Mo Williams has been out, James has double-digits in assists. He tied a career best with 15 assists on the night.
Memphis were led by Rudy Gay, who had 15 points on 7-of-14 shooting. Jamaal Tinsley chipped in 12 points off the bench for the Grizzlies in 17 minutes of work.
The win was the 250th for Cavaliers coach Mike Brown, who is in his fifth year with Cleveland. The Cavaliers face the Miami Heat next on Thursday at home, where they are an NBA-best 59-5 since the start of last season.