The Cleveland Cavaliers went into Monday’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies as heavy favourites.
Aside from being the overall better team, the Grizzlies are without Marc Gasol for the rest of the season, and were also missing Mike Conley, Zach Randolph, Matt Barnes, and Chris Andersen — all rotation players. In total, the Grizzlies had just eight healthy players for the game, most of which were not their usual starters.
But from the tip, the Cavs came out sluggish while the Grizzlies scrapped their way to a double-digit lead.
As was expected, late in the fourth quarter, the Cavs came surging back and took a one-point lead after a layup from LeBron James with 45 seconds left. That’s when things fell apart.
On the next possession, Grizzlies guard Mario Chalmers wormed his way to the basket for a floater, putting Memphis back up one with 25 seconds left. The Cavs called timeout, and with only a one-second difference between the shot clock and game clock, they put the ball in LeBron’s hands with the game on the line.
It didn’t go as planned. As LeBron drove the lane, Grizzlies guard Tony Allen tied LeBron up, making it a jump ball, with 17 seconds left. LeBron, with a four-inch height advantage on Allen, did win the tip, but here’s where it went wrong. The ball went to Cavs guard Matthew Dellavedova, who got absolutely trampled by Lance Stephenson for the ball.
It should have been a foul on Stephenson, but with 16 seconds remaining, the Cavs were still in OK shape. They could foul, send the Grizzlies to the line, then get the ball back only down two or three points.
However, they committed the worst penalty they could, as Dellavedova fouled Vince Carter before the inbounds pass. Dellavadova was once again on the wrong end of the call, as it looked like Carter hooked his arm into fouling him.
By fouling before the inbounds, it put the Grizzlies at the line for a technical free throw, then gave them possession again. The Cavs had to foul once again after the inbound. Chalmers hit the technical, then Carter was fouled again, and he hit both. The Cavs were down four.
The Cavs still managed the clock wisely. They didn’t call timeout, went the length of the court, and James hit a three-pointer. They fouled again, went down by three after two more free throws from the Grizzlies, and then used their final timeout.
Out of the timeout, Kyrie Irving got a great looking at a game-tying three:
On one hand, the Cavaliers were on the wrong end of some questionable officiating. They still executed crunch-time offence well and nearly sent the game to overtime.
On the other hand, they had no business even trailing the Grizzlies in this game. Memphis came in with eight players, missing most of their starting lineup. Instead, the Cavaliers gave a half-hearted effort, lost, and their lead for first in the East is down to 2.5 games.
It continues to be a strange season for the Cavs.
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