Coming out of the halftime break, the Cavaliers were in a tad bit of trouble against a terrible team Tuesday night. Yet LeBron James was jovial and smiling as he reported to the floor.
He must’ve known something others didn’t.
Picking up the slack for two starters being out, James put together one of his trademark all-around efforts to fuel a 102-87 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies. The Cavs (30-6) now have a three-game winning streak.
“You don’t want to let young teams hang around,” James said. “So I wanted to turn it up and be the aggressor. Once I get going it is tough for teams to stop us.”
James pieced together his second triple double of the season and the 19th of his career with 30 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. The centerpiece was that third quarter, when James personally took an uncomfortable game and turned it into one of those Cavs chucklers.
He scored 17 points in the third with three assists and four rebounds with a flurry of masculine drives to the hoop. After just nine points in the first half as the Cavs allowed the Grizzlies (11-27) to stay rather close, James sensed it was time to seize control.
He did it by attacking,” Cavs coach Mike Brown said. “He took it upon himself to get us going the right way.”
He picked up a loose ball and raced for a two-handed dunk. He performed a textbook crossover dribble on Rudy Gay, leaving him in the dust on the way to a reserve jam and then picked up foul after foul in a march to the line. At one point he scored nine consecutive points.
Besides all the points, James’ rebounds were needed without Ben Wallace, who missed the game with the flu, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas (ankle). He helped win the rebounding battle and also did a respectable job defending Gay, who came in averaging 19 points a game but had trouble dealing with James’ length as he missed 13-of-18 shots and finished with 10 points.
Delonte West also rose to the occasion. He scored 19 points with six rebounds and four assists but that’s only the half of it. West was all over Grizzlies rookie O.J. Mayo, who is the team’s leading scorer at just under 20 points a game.
West didn’t give Mayo much space on the outside while denying him penetration on drives. Mayo managed just nine points and spent much of the night in foul trouble.
Combined with Mo Williams, who had 16 points and three assists, the Cavs’ backcourt made up nicely for the depleted frontcourt.
So did J.J. Hickson, who has been getting more responsibility as injuries pile up and so do his minutes. He had some rough moments early on, but was effective in the second half as the Cavs pushed the lead out. He finished with nine points and seven rebounds.
Daniel Gibson also had a good effort off the bench with 11 points with 3-of-4 3-pointers. It was one of the best 3-point shooting nights of the season for the Cavs, who made 12-of-21.
Kyle Lowry led the Grizzlies with 25 points, 15 from the foul line. Darius Miles scored 11 points in 11 minutes off the bench.
“Knowing that two of our vet guys were were out we all had to step it up,” James said. “We didn’t have B or Z but everybody helped out.”