Once again not ready to play when the second half began, Cleveland fell 103-92 to the Memphis Grizzlies, who were playing without their best player in power forward Zach Randolph.
“Two words for you: Third quarter,” Cavs coach Byron Scott said to begin his postgame press conference. “(It’s) that simple.
“That might have been (the case) the last four games where we came out like that. We just got lucky and got away with it against Utah (on Wednesday).”
Up 51-48 at halftime against the Grizzlies (41-19), the Cavs (21-41) were outscored 10-0, 14-2 and 16-3 to start the third period.
Just like that, they were down 10 and never led again.
“We take care of the first, second and fourth quarters,” said Cavs point guard Kyrie Irving, who had 24 points, two rebounds, three assists and four turnovers in 36 minutes while playing with an illness. “If we can avoid third quarters, avoid holes like that, we could get a lot more wins.”
The Grizzlies, who improved to 3-0 since Randolph went down with a sprained ankle and won for the 11th time in their last 12 games, led by as many as 12 in the third period.
A great rebounding and defensive team that needs to be precise to be successful on offense, Memphis was up 80-69 entering the fourth after outscoring Cleveland 32-18 in the third quarter.
“We come out and we’re somewhere else,” Scott said. “The game starts and we’re still somewhere else until something catches our attention.
“Mentally, it looks like we’re not into the game at that time, for some reason.”
Halftime is generally considered a time when coaches can make a big impact via adjustments, but Cleveland went downhill fast after intermission.
The Grizzlies shot 61.9 percent in the third period (13-for-21), while the Cavs connected at a 29.4 percent clip (5-for-17). Memphis also held an 11-6 edge on the boards and a 9-3 advantage in assists.
“That third quarter killed us,” said Irving, who played the entire period and went 3-for-8 for eight points while adding one assist.
The Cavs got within 88-84 with 5:37 to go in the fourth, but Quincy Pondexter answered with a 3-pointer for Memphis.
The dagger came with the Cavs down 95-88. The Grizzlies committed a turnover with 1:54 remaining, but Tony Allen almost immediately poked the ball away from Irving and Mike Conley scored with 1:47 left.
In reality, though, the game was decided at the start of the third period.
“You’ve got to bring a certain amount of energy,” Scott said. “When that ball is tossed to the guy to begin the third quarter, it should be all business again.”
A number of Cavs were missing in action most of the night. Dion Waiters, back after missing two games due to illness, went 0-for-4 from the field and had three points, one rebound and one assist in 20 minutes, while starting center Tyler Zeller had two points and one board in 18 minutes.
Former Memphis big man Marreese Speights, who had nine points but was 1-for-5 from the field with one rebound in 24 minutes, also wasn’t very good, while former Grizzlies teammate Wayne Ellington managed seven points and five boards in 28 minutes.
Speights suffered a cut on his elbow in the fourth quarter when he dove to try to keep a ball from going out of bounds.
Jon Leuer, the guy the Cavs traded to salary-dumping Memphis on Jan. 22 to get Speights, Ellington and a first-round pick, was actually better during his 12 first-half minutes, going 2-for-2 from the field with three rebounds.
The real keys were Memphis center Marc Gasol (22 points, 11-for-16 shooting, eight rebounds, five assists, two blocks), point guard Mike Conley Jr. (17 points, 11 assists, five steals) and backup guard Jerryd Bayless, who had 11 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter.
Former Ohio State center Greg Oden, who hasn’t played since 2009 due to knee problems, sat courtside and told several reporters he liked the Cavs organization.
Oden, who is best friends with Mike Conley Jr. and represented by Mike Conley Sr., is not expected to sign with anyone until July, but right now the Cavs are considered the favorite to land him.
• Cleveland’s Alonzo Gee nailed a 68-foot 3-pointer at the first-quarter buzzer.
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or email@example.com.
Grizzlies 103, Cavaliers 92
MEMPHIS (103): Prince 4-12 0-0 8, Davis 6-11 0-0 12, Gasol 11-16 0-0 22, Conley 6-10 4-5 17, Allen 4-9 3-3 11, Bayless 8-16 0-0 17, Leuer 2-2 0-0 4, Wroten 2-3 1-1 5, Daye 1-4 0-0 3, Pondexter 1-3 1-2 4. Totals 45-86 9-11 103.
CLEVELAND (92): Gee 5-13 0-0 12, Thompson 3-4 4-6 10, Zeller 1-3 0-0 2, Irving 11-21 1-2 24, Waiters 0-4 3-4 3, Speights 1-5 7-8 9, Ellington 3-5 0-0 7, Walton 2-5 1-2 6, Miles 5-10 2-2 13, Livingston 2-2 2-2 6. Totals 33-72 20-26 92.
Memphis 23 25 32 23 — 103
Cleveland 19 32 18 23 — 92
3-Point Goals—Memphis 4-11 (Pondexter 1-2, Conley 1-2, Daye 1-3, Bayless 1-3, Prince 0-1), Cleveland 6-14 (Gee 2-4, Walton 1-1, Ellington 1-2, Miles 1-3, Irving 1-3, Waiters 0-1). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Memphis 47 (Davis 9), Cleveland 41 (Thompson 10). Assists—Memphis 30 (Conley 11), Cleveland 19 (Walton 5). Total Fouls—Memphis 15, Cleveland 17. A—17,032 (20,562).