Cavaliers beat Grizzlies for 11th straight victory
CLEVELAND — The fourth quarter has belonged to LeBron James all season, so why should Saturday night be any different?
James scored 15 of his game-high 34 points in the fourth quarter of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 116-111 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies.
James scored the Cavs’ final 13 points in a game that was dangerously close for comfort against a Grizzlies team that has now lost 11 consecutive games — the worst stretch in the NBA this season.
The Cavs have now won 11 in a row.
“I’ve been in a lot of big games, regular season and postseason, in the Finals where you have to come through for your teammates and I just tried to be as close as possible late in the game,” said James, who contributed 12 assists in 39 minutes.
“Tonight was another one of those opportunities for me and I was able to come through for my team. It’s an honor for me to even be able to have 14 guys and they’re looking at me personally like, OK, it’s your time. I just try to make the right reads and the right decisions to help us win.”
James entered the game averaging 9.3 points in the fourth quarter, and it was his jumper with five seconds left that finished the Grizzlies.
Tyreke Evans had 31 points and 12 assists for Memphis. Marc Gasol added 27 points and six rebounds.
Memphis trimmed a 19-point deficit to 93-83 by the end of the third quarter. The Grizzlies got within three points with 7:37 left in the fourth, and then tied it on Dillon Brooks’ 3-pointer with 2:10 to go.
James responded with a bullish post move for a layup, followed by a violent drive to the rim for a layup and a free throw with 34 seconds left.
“We’re not here for moral victories, but you have to give these guys a ton of credit for the way they competed tonight after a tough game last night,” said J.B. Bickerstaff, the Grizzlies’ interim coach. “We can’t be discouraged — we understood where we started three games ago and we’re taking steps in the right direction.
“That effort there tonight beats 90 percent of the teams in this league on their home court. Unfortunately for us, they got a guy over there who is pretty good.”
The Grizzlies fired coach David Fizdale on Monday.
Kevin Love scored 20 points to go with 11 rebounds for the Cavs and now has more than 5,000 defensive rebounds for his career — the eighth active player with that many defensive boards.
J.R. Smith scored 17 points and Dwyane Wade added 16 points and four assists off the Cavs’ bench.
The Grizzlies led by as many as 12 points in the first quarter and were up 32-28 heading into the second. Gasol scored 10 quick points.
A 14-2 run for the Cavaliers starting with 4:21 left in the second quarter is when the game turned.
James scored 11 points from that point until the end of the first half and assisted on Cleveland’s other two baskets. Dribbling out the clock against Jarell Martin, James turned away from the basket and lofted in a 17-footer at the buzzer for a 66-52 lead.
The Grizzlies connected on 11 3-pointers in the second half to get back in the game.
“They junked the game up again putting bigs on smalls,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. “Just kind of had us in disarray offensively. We just kept our composure, just kept playing. Bron took us home down the stretch. It was a tricky game for us.”
Channing Frye suffered a dislocation of his right middle finger early in the fourth quarter when it was caught in Gasol’s jersey on the Memphis center’s drive to the hoop. Frye had his finger taped and could’ve returned to the game.
NOTES: The Cavaliers and G Derrick Rose have held “positive communication” about a possible return, according to cleveland.com. Both coach Tyronn Lue and general manager Koby Altman confirmed the dialogue, but neither would confirm Rose’s imminent return. Rose, who has been out since Nov. 9 with complications from a sprained left ankle, left the team Nov. 22 to ponder his basketball future. He was the 2011 NBA MVP, but injuries have since wrecked his career. Altman said there would be news involving Rose on Sunday, according to cleveland.com. ... Grizzlies G Michael Conley missed his ninth consecutive game wit left Achilles soreness.... Memphis F Chandler Parsons (right ankle, knee) and F/C Brandan Wright (groin) missed the game after playing Friday against San Antonio. C Marc Gasol was called “questionable” Saturday morning because of a left foot injury. ... Cleveland’s franchise record for consecutive wins is 13, set in 2008-09 and tied the following season. The Cavaliers’ next two opponents, the Bulls and Kings, are among the league’s worst teams this year.