For most of this young NBA season, the Cleveland Cavaliers have played hard and played together, which has helped this team be an early-season surprise in the NBA despite all of the injuries.
On Monday at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, the Cavaliers, who returned home after a six-game road trip to battle the Grizzlies, did not follow their recipe for success, which is playing hard and playing together, and because of that, according to head coach J.B. Bickerstaff, Cleveland(5-6) fell to Memphis(4-6) 101-91.
Memphis’ Dillon Brooks had a game-high 21 points, while Andre Drummond had his eleventh-straight double-double with 19 points and 14 rebounds for Cleveland.
“To be honest, I thought we lacked for large periods of the game, the two things that matter to us most,” Bickerstaff said. “Our competitiveness, our selflessness; tonight was the first sign that I saw, more than not, we were lacking in those areas.”
These two teams played last Thursday night in Memphis, where the Cavaliers defeated the Grizzlies 94-90.
Again, Cleveland was without seven players, including their leading-scorer Collin Sexton, who Bickerstaff did not know would be unavailable until right before tip-off. Sexton has missed three games due to a sprained ankle.
With the injuries, players are in spots that they are not used to playing, which makes executing very hard. Cleveland finished the game with 21 turnovers.
“You look at the entirety of the game,” Bickerstaff said. “You finish the game with 21 turnovers. It’s hard to survive that, especially playing low possession games. Again, asking guys who are out of position to get us in positions and get us organized in a pressure-filled fourth quarter isn’t the easiest thing.”
Cleveland gave up 64 points in the paint against Memphis, and Bickerstaff believes that comes back to the lack of selflessness on the defensive end. In the end, Bickerstaff believes the loss was on the team.
“That’s(64 points in the paints) apart of the selflessness on the defensive end of the floor,” he said. “There was a lot of me just guarding my man. We protect the paint with not just one guy. Our goal is to protect the paint with multiple bodies so teams don’t get in there. They scored 64 points in our paint. You add the free throws(16 points), and 80 of their points came from our paint and free throw line. Throw in, you turn the ball over 21 times; that’s dang-near impossible to overcome…
“This one was on us tonight.”
With the injuries, many things have to go right for the Cavaliers to win games, and based on the results, it was clear Cleveland did not play the right way against Memphis. Now, they regroup and see if they can turn it around against the Jazz on Wednesday night.