Cleveland Cavs outlast feisty Memphis Grizzlies, 108-101

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In this injury-defined NBA season, Grizzlies fans have adjusted their expectations. With bench players, rookies and G-League call ups getting extended minutes, the focus is on development more than wins — which makes the Grizzlies’ 108-101 loss to the Cleveland Cavs on Feb. 1 a little bit easier to digest.

“It is very encouraging,” Jenkins said after the game. “These guys are getting these opportunities. Many of these guys when the season started, did not know they would be closing lineups.

“Seeing Jaren take on more responsibilities at the end of games . . . . Vince Williams stepping up on both sides of the ball. . . . (I love) the way our guys are competing hard and trying to figure it out.”

Pregame was filled with a flurry of roster moves, none bigger than the trade of Steven Adams to the Houston Rockets for Victor Oladipo and a pair of second-round picks. The Grizzlies also announced two players signed to 10 day contracts: Tosan Evobuomwan and Trey Jemison, both of whom played Thursday night.

The Grizzlies initially led the Cavaliers 11-6, but the Cavs quickly rebounded, gaining a 15-11 advantage. The Grizzlies, inspired by Jaren Jackson Jr.’s 9 points and 3 assists, tied the game at 27 by the end of the first quarter.

Donovan Mitchell gets to the cup for two points against the Grizzlies on Feb. 1. (Photo: Warren Roseborough/Tri-State Defender)

In the second quarter, newly announced All-Star Donovan Mitchell scored 9 points, contributing to the Cavs’ performance, while The Grizzlies’ Vince Williams Jr. and Santi Aldama collectively added 13 points and 6 rebounds for the Grizzlies, who led 58-51 at halftime.

The Cavs, however, rallied in the second half, eventually overtaking the Grizzlies. Despite a close final quarter, highlighted by Aldama’s crucial basket and GG Jackson’s free throws, the Grizzlies fell short, with the Cavs securing the win.

Jaren Jackson Jr., who led the Grizzlies with 25 points, reflected on the challenges of closing out games and the need to counter the opponents’ star players more effectively.

“A lot of their stars and great players get going late and we have to make sure we take care of their tendencies,” Jaren Jackson Jr. said after the game. “Take what they have away at a higher level during that time. It’s tough losing when you’re up late.”

The Cavs’ win was propelled by Mitchell’s 25 points and team contributions from Caris LaVert, Jarret Allen, and Max Strus.

Jaren Jackson Jr. led the Grizzlies (18-30) with 25 points, five rebounds and five assists. Vince Williams had 17 points in 30 minutes of action.  Aldama had 18 points and nine rebounds. Scotty Pippen Jr. and GG Jackson each had 10 points. Jemison finished the game with five points, his first as an NBA player. 

“It was amazing. I got here 48 hours ago. I had one walkthrough practice. I am blessed to be here,” he said. “I am just going to do what I do. I am not going to do anything special. I am going to rebound, communicate and block shots.”

Meanwhile, Pippen, son of Chicago Bulls legend Scottie Pippen, is settling into his role on the Grizzlies.

“Everyone has been cool. Off the court I have gotten along with everyone,” he said. “I feel like I have been here a long time already. The transition has been great.”

In other news, the Grizzlies acknowledged the official announcement that former All-Star and Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol had retired from professional basketball. The Grizzlies traded Gasol to Toronton in 2019, where he won an NBA Championship. He played for the Lakers and then back in Spain before hanging up his sneakers for good.

The Grizzlies announced they will retire his uniform on April 6 when they face the Philadelphia 76ers.

“He had a heck of a career,” said Aldama, for whom Gasol is a national hero. “I can’t even describe it.  For me growing up in Spain, what he did was insane. He has had a career not many people have had. I want to congratulate him, and he has inspired me for sure.”