Dribbles: Another Bad Third Sinks Cavs in Loss to Grizzlies

Sam Amico

Random dribbles following the Cavaliers' 113-109 road loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday.

1. Your Cleveland Cavaliers have come down with a nasty case of the Third Quarter Blues.

2. It happened against the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday. It happened against the Los Angeles Clippers a night later. Both times, the Cavs stuck around and fared well in the first half. They then ended up getting blown out by star-driven teams.

3. The Grizzlies don't have a LeBron James or Kawhi Leonard, but they have been coming together and playing especially well lately. They too ran past the Cavs in the third quarter. While the Cavs didn't get blown out this time, it cost them the game.

4. For the Grizzlies, the hero's name was third-year wing Dillon Brooks. You may not know Brooks, a second-round pick in 2017 (No. 45 overall). He also missed all but 18 games last year with a major toe injury. He has been very good this season alongside rookie point guard Ja Morant. On this night, the only pain involving Brooks was what he inflicted on the Cavs.

5. The Cavs actually led by two at halftime. Just as they led LeBron James and the Lakers by one at halftime. That night, the third quarter was the James Show. This night, it was Brooks, who erupted during a 38-20 Grizzlies surge. Ballgame. At least, it seemed so.

6. The Cavs had a surge of their own in the fourth quarter, as they cut the deficit to four with 24.1 seconds left and had the ball. But Kevin Love's good look on a 3-pointer rattled out. That time, it really was ballgame.

7. The Grizzlies (20-22) have won seven straight. The Cavs have lost three straight. But as coach John Beilein has said, the Cavs are focused on winning "the wars within the war." 

8. In other words, they want to see pockets of improvement in each game, particularly from the younger players. They received that again Friday, and those pockets are getting deeper. More specifically, the Cavs have been playing better for longer stretches lately.

9. Translation: For this year's Cavs (12-30), moral victories do indeed mean something. That's good, because the actual victories don't come around very often.

10. Beilein to reporters: "We really had our chances. A couple more baskets in the stretch and we could have won. We just had a bad run there in the third quarter. It was very costly. When the momentum goes the other way, we need to learn how to settle down, take a step back and execute. We didn’t do that a couple of times and it cost us."

11. So chalk up those third quarter meltdowns to a lack of experience in understanding how to survive someone else's run.

12. As you likely know by now, Tristan Thompson was ejected late in the third quarter. Former Cavs and current Grizzlies forward Jae Crowder was involved. Thompson and Crowder had been jawing most of the night. They each received a technical for it in the first quarter. Thompson got another when he slapped the behind of Crowder just before Thompson shot a free throw. Two technicals means an automatic ejection.

13. As Cavs legend and FOX Sports Ohio analyst Austin Carr said with a laugh, "No more hitting backsides" for Cleveland athletes. 

14. Thompson brushed off the ejection, indicating that he and Crowder were just being competitive, and mostly in a fun way. "(The referees) might have taken it the wrong way," Thompson told reporters. "Probably because they forgot that, I don’t know, we were teammates for half a year. So it feels like playing anyone else, like if I was playing Kyrie (Irving) or something. It was the same thing."

15. Second-year guard Collin Sexton put together one of his best games as a pro, scoring 28 points and even dishing off six assists. He did more driving-and-kicking than usual, and the results were often open looks for his teammates.

16. Love had another nice game, with 19 points and nine rebounds vs. the team that originally drafted him in 2008. (The Grizzlies traded him and a few others to Minnesota for Ohio product O.J. Mayo the same night.)

17. Larry Nance Jr. added one of his best showings since November, scoring 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting. Alfonzo McKinnie added 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting. He also collected 10 boards and did a nice job defensively. All this from a man who was waived a little more than a week ago.

18. Brooks led the Grizzlies with 26 points. Morant scored 16 and passed for a game-high eight assists. That kid is truly something special, man. Overall, this was an exciting show put on by both teams.

19. A Cavs official told SI.com the team was forced to stay in Memphis on Friday because of the forceful wintry weather in Chicago. The Cavs are scheduled to play the Bulls on Saturday night. 

20. NBA teams are required to fly to the next city immediately after the first game on back-to-backs. But circumstances kept the Cavs in Tennessee. As of midnight, the game against the Bulls was still on.

20. Darius Garland added 11 points and six assists for the Cavs. Cedi Osman scored just four and has really struggled shooting on this trip. He missed all five of his 3-pointers vs. the Grizzlies. Love went 0-of-6 on threes.

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