MEMPHIS — The Cleveland Cavaliers went into Christmas break as the worst team in the Eastern Conference. After an overtime win by the Phoenix Suns and a 95-87 win by the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday, the Cavs now have the worst record in the NBA at 8-27.
Despite shooting 28.6 percent in the first half and trailing by as much as 17, the Cavaliers kept fighting in the fourth quarter and trimmed the Memphis lead to as little as four with 1:19 left.
Grizzlies guard Mike Conley came back with a layup, steal and two made free throws to put the game away for the Grizzlies and send the Cavs to another loss.
“That first half, we didn’t do a good job moving the basketball, especially the starters,” Cavaliers coach Larry Drew said. “Second half, I think we did a better job of moving the ball. Once we got the ball moving, we were getting the shots that we wanted. So hopefully, this will be a lesson for us.”
The Cavaliers could not find the basket to start the game. Channing Frye had their first made shot on a 3-pointer with 4:26 left in the first quarter. They missed their first 12 shots prior to that. The Cavs scored just nine points in the first quarter, making just 3 of 21 attempts from the floor (14.3 percent). And they turned it over seven times, leading to eight points.
“(It was) just one of those quarters,” Cavaliers guard Jordan Clarkson said. “Maybe it’s Christmas, who knows? Everyone ate good on Christmas and came in a little slow. But everybody got (it) out of them. We was right there in the game.”
Marc Gasol and the Grizzlies caused problems whenever the Cavs tried to attack the hoop. Memphis had 10 blocks, including four from Gasol, who also had a team-high 20 points and nine rebounds. He was one of five Grizzlies in double-figure scoring.
The Cavs only had three players reach double digits. Clarkson had a game-high 24, and Collin Sexton added 16 and a team-high six assists. Cedi Osman chipped in 10 points in 30 minutes.
The loss was the fourth in a row for the Cavs, and it was also the fourth time they have lost at least four straight.
Cavs’ offensive struggles by the numbers
The first half against Memphis extended a brutal four-quarter stretch of offense for the Cavaliers.
In the second half of the Cavs’ 112-92 blowout loss to the Bulls on Sunday, they scored just 33 points. They had 32 in the first half against Memphis.
By contrast, the Cavs scored 59 in the first half on Sunday. They managed just six more points than that in the following four quarters.
Wednesday continued another trend of poor offense. In the last five games, the Cavs failed to score 100 points four times.
Turnovers a problem again
The Cavaliers turned the ball over seven times in the first quarter alone. They finished with 16, and the Grizzlies turned them into 24 points.
The Cavaliers continue their three-game road trip in Miami on Friday night. Tipoff against the Heat at American Airlines Arena is at 7 p.m.