Cavaliers maul Grizzlies 114-107
BY STONE LEXINGTON
CAVALIERS BEAT WRITER
(CLEVELAND, OH) - The top two point guards selected in the 2019 NBA Draft were on display Friday night in Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, as the Cleveland Cavaliers hosted the Memphis Grizzlies. It was the Cavs’ top rookie, though, whose team ultimately came out on top.
Ja Morant, selected second-overall by the Grizzles earlier this year, has been as advertised for Memphis this season, leading all rookies in scoring at 18.9 points per game. While Morant also paces all rookies in assists (6.5), Cavs rookie point guard Darius Garland hasn’t been too shabby this season either.
Garland, selected No. 5 overall by the Cavs, is third amongst rookies in assists per game (3.1) and ranks in the top 10 in scoring (10.9). His Cavaliers, however, topped Morant and the Grizzlies 114-107 on Friday and won back-to-back games for just the second time this season.
“There was a point in the fourth quarter when I didn’t think I’d be sitting up here with a ‘W’,” Cavs head coach John Beilein said after the game. “We had some really good moments in the game…I love the way we fought back, the resiliency that we had was terrific for our guys to do that.
“It would have been crazy to keep Jordan off the floor at gametime.”
Another guard tried to steal the show from Morant and Garland on Friday. Jordan Clarkson, who has had an outstanding season off the Cavs bench, was on fire early against the Grizzlies. Entering Friday, the shooting guard had scored in double-figures 22 times off the bench this season, tied for the second-most among reserves in the league. He extended that steak before halftime even arrived against Memphis, scoring 20 points in the first two quarters alone.
Morant, on the other hand, may have had his worst half as a young pro. The rookie had just two points on 1-of-6 shooting in the first half, which helped the Cavs take a 55-51 lead into halftime. Morant’s most notable highlight was a missed dunk in the first quarter that would have been looped on top play reels for years.
A close contest throughout, Morant sparked an 8-0 run to open the third quarter that regained a Memphis lead, which the team sustained heading into the fourth. The Grizzlies took a six-point, 87-81 lead into the fourth quarter and led by the same margin when Clarkson drained another three-pointer with 9:05 to play in the fourth. Clarkson’s trey brought the Cavs within a 93-86 deficit, while also tying his season-high with 28 points. He wasn’t finished.
When Clarkson drained a jumper with a little more than five minutes to play, the Cavs were within three points, 103-100. After the shot went through the net, the Fieldhouse erupted and Clarkson wagged his tongue like another Jordan used to in his heyday.
When Cavs power forward Kevin Love sank his third three-pointer of the evening with 2:50 to play, the Cavs regained the lead, 106-103. Love’s fifth and final three-pointer was even bigger, as he splashed a trey that gave Cleveland a 109-107 lead with 1:03 remaining. Morant sank a two-pointer with 1:25 to play, but Memphis didn’t score from that point forward.
“It was all about our defense,” Beilein said. “We created turnovers…we just had to create offense through that until we get up and score some points.”
Morant finished with a season-low eight points to go along with a season-high tying 11 assists and five rebounds. His point guard counterpart, Garland, finished with 14 points, five rebounds and two assists — His streak of five assists or more was snapped at four games, the longest streak by a Cavs rookie since Donald Sloan in April 2012.
Clarkson totaled a season-high 33 points and six rebounds. Tristan Thompson recorded his team-leading 15th double-double of the season with 10 points and 15 rebounds, while Love chipped-in a double-double of his own with 21 points and 13 rebounds.
While Clarkson’s explosion was largely the story on Friday, the future remains bright with Garland and Morant on NBA floors. Garland and the Cavs will attempt to win their third game in a row on Monday at home against the Atlanta Hawks.
POSTED 12/20/2019 23:26