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CLEVELAND -- Interim general manager David Griffin said before the Cavaliers’ game Sunday night that he’d like to see a few more smiles from his team.
Following Cleveland’s 91-83 overtime win over Memphis, there were happy faces all around the locker room.
“The game is fun,” said Kyrie Irving, who scored 28 points as Cavaliers won back-to-back games for the first time in a month. “Being out there, just competing at the highest level. At the end of the day, it’s just a game.”
The Cavaliers, who broke a six-game losing streak Friday night against Washington, have won both games since general manager Chris Grant was fired last week.
Irving scored the final four points in regulation to tie it. Luol Deng’s 3-pointer on the first possession of overtime put Cleveland ahead for good, 81-78.
While a two-game winning streak won’t remedy all the team’s problems in an adversity-filled season, the Cavaliers want to seize on any positive momentum they can find.
“Everybody was putting too much pressure on themselves,” Irving said. “We needed to go out there and play basketball. Going out there the last two games, whether the game gets tight or gets away from you, it should be fun.”
Nick Calathes scored 17 points to lead Memphis, which has lost three of four since winning six straight.
Deng began the overtime scoring with a 3-pointer from the corner as the shot clock was winding down. Baskets by Dion Waiters and Anderson Varejao, sandwiched around a 3-pointer by Calathes, left Cleveland with an 85-81 lead. A resounding dunk by Waiters and four free throws by Irving put the game away.
“They had the two best players on the floor in Dion Waiters and Kyrie Irving,” Grizzlies coach David Joerger said. “They really took the game over from start to finish.”
Joerger blamed the Grizzlies’ poor first half, in which they fell behind by 14 points, for the loss.
“We slogged in the mud at the start tonight, which you can’t do on the road,” he said.
James Johnson scored 13 points in the fourth quarter to help Memphis erase a nine-point deficit. Cleveland led 74-65 but was held scoreless for 4:54 as the Grizzlies took a 78-74 lead.
Irving tied it with a layup with 18 seconds remaining and was fouled, but missed the free throw, giving Memphis the ball with 16.7 seconds left. Zach Randolph lost the ball while driving the lane and Waiters’ heave from just inside halfcourt hit off the backboard.
Griffin met with the players at Sunday morning at the shootaround while owner Dan Gilbert spoke with them prior to the game.
“I think it woke up a lot of people,” Waiters said of Grant’s dismissal. “Me, I felt half of that was my fault, how we played. We just didn’t come out right as a unit. I think it cost the man his job. If we had been playing the way we have the last two games he’d probably still be here. We can’t dwell on the past, we’ve got to continue to play the way we’ve been playing and keep it up.”
Waiters scored 18 points, and C.J. Miles added 14 for Cleveland.
Johnson scored 15 points for Memphis. Randolph, who left the game in the second quarter to get three stitches to close a cut under his left eye, had 14 points. Calathes, playing in place of the injured Mike Conley, made his first six shots and was 7-of-9 from the field.
Randolph went to the locker room late in the second quarter after taking an elbow in the face from Tristan Thompson while they were going for a rebound. Randolph was on the court for a couple of moments and asked for a towel to put to his face. He tapped hands with Thompson before jogging off the court with a team trainer. Randolph returned to start the third quarter.
“Teams know we try to go inside to Zach and let him go to work, but we’ve got to do something with all five guys, not always depend on our horse down there,” Said Memphis forward Tayshaun Prince. “We can’t allow Zach to always be our hero. It puts us in a tough spot and it puts him in a tough spot.”
Deng started after missing Friday’s game with the flu.
— Varejao left the game with a hand injury in the first quarter. He went to the locker room, but returned in the second quarter. Varejao, who finished with 14 rebounds, also appeared to tweak his knee in the fourth quarter but returned to the game quickly.
— Cleveland snapped a four-game losing streak in the series.
— Grizzlies G Tony Allen (sprained left wrist) is listed as day-to-day, but hasn’t taken part in practice. He’s been out since Jan. 3.