Grizzlies put Cavs on verge of elimination

Posted: Thursday, April 08, 2004

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - The load was a little heavier, but James Posey continued to carry the Memphis Grizzlies.

Posey took up the offensive slack of three missing Grizzlies, scoring 35 points Wednesday night in Memphis' 50th win of the season, 92-74 over the reeling Cleveland Cavaliers, whose slim playoff hopes faded even further with the loss.

It marked the fifth consecutive game Posey led the Grizzlies in scoring, averaging 28.4 in the stretch. It was Posey's third 30-plus scoring performance in those five games.

Posey said he didn't feel any extra pressure to produce because of the missing offensive punch caused by injuries to forward Pau Gasol and reserve Bonzi Wells and the one-game suspension of point guard Jason Williams.

"Everything was in the flow of the game on both ends of the court," Posey said. "It was a team effort. We got stops when we needed to. ... I prepared the same way, it was just in the flow of the game."

Memphis coach Hubie Brown was a little more emphatic about Posey's contribution.

"We had four guys in double figures, and James Posey carried us," Brown said. "I'm happy for (him). He's a professional, humble, hardworking and really gutsy player, and really gets it done under pressure."

The win snapped a two-game losing streak for Memphis. The Cavaliers' struggles continued: Cleveland lost its sixth straight and 10th in the last 11. The Cavaliers trail Boston by three games for the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, with four games left to play. Philadelphia trails Boston by two games.

"We were not only tired, but we just didn't play worth a damn either," Cleveland coach Paul Silas said. "That's it, plain and simple."

Dajuan Wagner led Cleveland with 18 points, shooting 8-for-12. Rookie sensation LeBron James, guarded by Posey and Battier most of the night, was held to 14 points on 4-of-11 shooting, and no 3-point attempts. Zydrunas Ilgauskas scored 10 points and had five blocks.

"They came out, made shots, and we were less aggressive in the first half," James said. "We tried to get more aggressive in the second half, but we were unable to get back."

Cleveland forward Carlos Boozer of Juneau, who entered the game averaging 18.6 points and 12.9 rebounds over the past 37 games, was held to seven points and eight boards in limited action.

Posey, who connected on eight of 12 shots, including 4-for-5 from 3-point range, carried the load in the first half as Memphis built a double-digit lead. Cleveland never got the deficit under 10 points in the second half.

Reserve Shane Battier scored 13 points for Memphis, while Jake Tsakalidis and Lorenzen Wright scored 10 each. Wright grabbed 10 rebounds.

"We're not surprised because we've had guys (out) earlier this year, and guys have filled in and stepped up," Battier said. "When other guys go down, we expect guys to step up and play well. That has been really one of the main ingredients to our success."

Memphis, beaten on the boards in its losses at Minnesota and Utah, outrebounded the Cavaliers 49-41, including 16 offensive boards for the Grizzlies.

Memphis rode Posey's 24 first-half points to a 55-39 lead at the break. The Grizzlies maintained their lead through the third quarter, holding a 76-62 edge entering the final period.

The 50 wins was just the latest goal Memphis has reached in a year that has seen one of the biggest turnarounds in the league. Most people would have been surprised with a modest increase from last year's franchise-record 28 wins.

Instead, the Grizzlies are in the playoffs and still fighting for homecourt advantage. The win put Memphis a half game ahead of Dallas for the Western Conference's fifth slot, and three behind San Antonio.

"We asked for 41 wins, and they got that early," Brown said of his team. "We asked for the playoffs. They got that early. We asked for 50 wins, and they got that tonight."

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