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Cavs Tie NBA Record for Consecutive Losses in One Season at 23

For about three quarters tonight, the Cavaliers didn't exactly look like a team that had lost 22 straight games. They moved the ball on offense, stayed relatively even on the boards and played good enough defense to keep them competitive.

But they couldn't sustain for 48 minutes and a crucial 13-0 run to open the fourth quarter for Memphis was too much for them to overcome. The Grizzlies outscored Cleveland 29-21 in the period and handed the Cavaliers their 23rd straight defeat, tying an NBA record for most consecutive losses in one season.

After the Grizzlies made their first 10 shots of the game to open up a 24-16 lead, the Cavs responded with a 16-2 run to take a 32-26 lead at the end of the first quarter. They led at the end of the first, second and third quarters for just the third time this season and the first time since Jan. 24 against New Jersey.

J.J. Hickson sparked the first half run with 21 points and 8 rebounds. He had to struggled to get into a rhythm the last three games against some of the league's tallest centers (Dwight Howard, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Roy Hibbert) but was aggressive from the opening tip, drawing three fouls on Marc Gasol in the first nine minutes. He looked comfortable off the dribble, knocked down several mid-range jumper and grabbed five offensive rebounds as well.

The Cavs continued to lead throughout the third quarter until a Mike Conley three from the left corner gave Memphis their first lead since the first quarter. The Cavs scored the last four in the quarter, including a beautiful Ramon Sessions to Antawn Jamison pass in the final seconds, to take an 84-83 lead in the fourth.

That's when the Grizzlies took over. Behind Greivis Vasquez and Zach Randolph, they hit 4 of their first 5 shots from the field and opened up a 96-84 lead. The Cavs never really threatened after, pulling to within 8 at one point, and were really sunk when Rudy Gay nailed a 33-foot three-pointer as the shot clock expired to put Memphis up 15.

The 23rd straight loss is the most in a row in one season since the Grizzlies (Vancouver version) did the same from Feb. 16 to Apr. 2 in 1996. They're now one loss away from tying the most consecutive losses in NBA history (24: Cleveland Cavaliers, last 19 games in 1981-82 and first 5 in 1982-83).

They'll face Portland at home tomorrow night with one last chance to avoid going down in history as the face of ineptitude.

 

Notes

  • Well................23 straight losses. It really looked like they had a great chance to win tonight. After a shaky start (allowing 10/10 FG for Memphis to start) they immediately responded, reclaimed the lead and pretty much controlled the game for 2 and a half quarters. The Grizzlies made repeated runs - they cut a 10-point second quarter lead to 3 but the Cavs closed the final 50 seconds with a 6-2 run to build a 7-point lead. The Grizz kept clawing back, finally taking the lead late in the 3rd - the Cavs again responded and put up 2 quick buckets to get back on top. But the defensive principles they occasionally displayed in the first 3 quarters were nonexistent to start the fourth. Rudy Gay got to the foul line and Randolph and Vasquez knocked down open shots. In the blink of an eye, they were down 12 and it was pretty much over at that point. The Cavs aren't built to erase deficits of that amount in a short period of time - the poor stretch over the first 3-and-a-half minutes showed just how little margin of error they have.

 

  • J.J. Hickson had scored a combined 24 points in his last three games against Dwight Howard, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Roy Hibbert - their size and length were just too much for him to ovecome. But tonight he was as aggressive as he's been all season and he created mismatches offensively, proving himself too quick and agile for Marc Gasol. He finished the game with 31 points, 15 rebounds, 2 assists and a block. The inside length of Memphis still bothered him - he had three shots blocked and missed a few putbacks. And in the fourth quarter, Zach Randolph really put him in jail. Randolph finished with 11 points, 3 rebounds and an assist in the fourth while Hickson had just 4 points and 5 boards. But Hickson played his tail off and there's no doubt that energy sparked his teammates. He helped the Cavs keep the rebounding margin close (38 to 33 in favor of Memphis).

 

  • If you're searching for positives (and please tell me you are after 23 in a row) look no further than Christian Eyenga. His stats weren't jaw dropping: 10 points (4-of-7 FG, 1-of-4 3PT), 3 steals, 2 rebounds, 2 blocks, 1 assist. But he just looks more and more comfortable on the floor and makes at least one or two plays each game that leave you in awe. Tonight he had a fantastic dunk in transition in the second quarter and a great steal and lay-in in traffic in the third. He was pretty strong defensively as well - Rudy Gay did have 26 points but did most of his damage from the foul line (9-of-11 FT). When he wasn't fouling, he used his length and athleticism to bother Gay. With Anderson Varejao out the Cavs are missing a glue guy and Eyenga can really thrive in that role (playing strong defense, making a few hustle plays, etc). And the better Ramon Sessions plays at PG, the more often he should continue to pick up a few easy buckets.

 

  • Antawn Jamison had a typical Antawn Jamison night: 19 points on 22 shots (1-of-8 3PT), 6 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks. He made a handful of mistakes defensively and uncharacteristically picked up a technical late in the fourth when the game was slipping out of reach. In a chat on ESPN.com earlier today Ric Bucher stated that the Cavs will be looking to deal Jamison before the Feb. 24 deadline but if they can't find any buyers then he's likely to be bought out. It'll be tough facilitating a deal for Jamison - he's making $15 million next season, he didn't thrive last season when the ball wasn't constantly in his hands, and he's not a very efficient scorer (averages 17.2 points on 15 shots per game). It'll be interesting to see if the Cavs actually reach a buy-out agreement with him however - as much as he'd like to be on a contender it'd be a risky move to leave $15 million on the table (minus the buy-out) and go into the offseason a free agent with an uncertain collective bargaining agreement.

 

  • This next part might sound insanely optimistic but at this point it's really meaningless to focus on the negatives - there are simply too many to cover. But the Cavs have played really well for stretches over the last 2 games. Granted the defense still isn't there but they've been much more efficient on offense and getting better play across the board. A loss tomorrow would equal the most consecutive defeats in NBA history...but I think the Cavs have a decent chance of winning against Portland. The Blazers are still without Marcus Camby and Brandon Roy. Wes Matthews and Nicolas Batum are nicked up. Overall the Blazers are just 9-17 on the road. They were thumped by Indiana 100-87 and fell out of the eight playoff spot in the West. In their last six games they're averaging just 88.7 points. So if the Cavaliers can be as effective as they were at times against Memphis and Indiana, I think they have a good chance of winning. Their confidence and body language have been much improved this week.

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