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 eight rebounds. He had 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 four of their first five shots from the field and opened up a 96-84 lead. The Cavs never really threatened after, pulling to within eight 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 April 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 five 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.
For more coverage of the Cleveland Cavaliers and their historical losing streak click here.