Cavs eye Grizzlies for rare back-to-back chance

NBA Basketball
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The Cleveland Cavaliers haven’t had much reason to smile this season, however they have fared reasonably well against teams in a similar predicament.

Although they have just seven wins on the season, the Cavaliers carry a respectable 6-5 record against below .500 clubs into Friday’s game versus the visiting Memphis Grizzlies.

Cleveland began its three-game homestand against that type of competition with a wire-to-wire 100-98 victory over the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday.

Sure, a robust 24-point lead was whittled to two and the Hornets’ bid for a last-second win caromed off the iron, but it was a positive result nonetheless.

“We pulled it off,” guard Collin Sexton told Cleveland.com after the Cavaliers recorded just their third win in 19 games.

“We made some bad mistakes at the end, some costly turnovers and we gave up some open 3s. But we’re going to watch film and get better at it. A win is a win and we are happy we got a win.”

Sexton made seven of his first eight shots and finished 10 of 14 from the field for a team-high 23 points.

Cedi Osman scored 11 of his 18 points in the first quarter and Kevin Love collected 16 points, 14 rebounds and team-high seven assists.

The positive numbers helped Cleveland overcome Ohio native Terry Rozier’s torrid fourth quarter in which he scored 19 of his team-high 35 points.

“It certainly wasn’t the fourth quarter that we wanted to play, but it’s a W and we’ve had a couple losses this year where the ball did not bounce our way,” Cavaliers head coach John Beilein said. “A W is a W and we are going to take it every day and celebrate it.”

Memphis had reason to celebrate with four wins in five games before letting a 24-point lead in the third quarter go by the boards in a 126-122 loss to Oklahoma City on Wednesday.

Rookie small forward Brandon Clarke recorded 27 points with seven rebounds off the bench to continue his strong play of late. The 23-year-old has scored 66 points while shooting 29 of 42 (69.0 percent) from the floor over his last three games.

Fellow rookie Ja Morant pumped in 22 points in the loss for the Grizzlies, who shot just 2 of 10 from 3-point range in the second half.

“We gotta finish. We’ve got to close out the game,” Morant said. “No matter if they go on a run or not, we have to go on one of our own. Get stops (and) go on at the other end and get good shots. Close out the game.”

Jonas Valanciunas scored 24 points on Wednesday and is shooting 19 of 25 from the floor in his last two games after going 9 of 25 for 20 points in his previous three.

The 27-year-old collected 25 points and 11 rebounds in Memphis’ 112-107 setback in Cleveland last season on Feb. 23.

Osman drained a go-ahead 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter of that contest and Love scored what would be a season-high 32 points for the Cavaliers.

–Field Level Media

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