MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The Memphis Grizzlies reserves accomplished what the starters couldn’t – they built enough of a lead to put away the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Marc Gasol had 16 points and nine rebounds, his backup Kosta Koufos scored eight of his 13 points in the fourth quarter, and the Grizzlies beat Cleveland 96-92 on Wednesday night.
“We just played smart defensively,” said Koufos, who missed only one of his six field goal attempts. “Our defense leads to our offense.”
Quincy Pondexter added 15 points for Memphis and Zach Randolph had 11. Mike Conley, Nick Calathes and Jon Leuer each had 10 points.
The Cavaliers played without LeBron James. Kyrie Irving scored 16 points, Dion Waiters added 15, Kevin Love had 12, and Joe Harris 10.
“We’re still learning about each other. It’s not a quick process,” said Shawn Marion, one of several players to sign with Cleveland after James’ return.
Irving connected on 7 of 11 while playing just under 24 minutes. Waiters was 6 of 10 from the field, including 3 of 4 from outside the arc.
“We definitely had some good moments,” Irving said. “There are a lot of things we can improve on. We just have to talk more. Communication is going to be important for us.”
In typical preseason form, there were sloppy moments for both teams. Early on, turnovers outnumbered field goals and both teams finally crept above 40 percent shooting near end of the first half. The Cavs took a 44-42 lead into the break as Irving and Waiters had 12 points apiece.
“I think we were rushing a little too much in the first quarter,” Gasol said of the turnovers. “We came out a little too excited maybe.”
After Memphis built its fourth-quarter lead to nine, Cleveland was within 93-91 with 39 seconds left. But Cavs guard A.J. Price could manage only one of two free throws, and Calathes scored on a layup for Memphis with 24 seconds left, providing Memphis with enough to capture its third victory of the preseason.
“We wanted to come out of here healthy and whole, and we did,” Cleveland coach David Blatt said.
Grizzlies: Guard Courtney Lee sat out with a tender left ankle. Lee, projected to be a starter when the season opens, was replaced in the lineup by Pondexter. … Earlier Wednesday, the Grizzlies announced they waived camp invitees Earl Clark and Hassan Whiteside.
Cavaliers: James Posey, who played two seasons with the Grizzlies, is now a member of the Cavaliers coaching staff. … Cleveland 3-point shooter Mike Miller returned to the FedExForum for the first time since the Grizzlies didn’t sign him during the offseason, opting instead for free agent Vince Carter.
Neither team could build a double-digit lead through most of the game, contributing to 12 ties and 13 lead changes.
FOURTH QUARTER PUSH:
With mainly reserves on the floor in the fourth quarter, Memphis went a 7-0 run, five points coming from Koufos, to build a 79-72 lead with about 7 minutes left. The eventual nine-point lead would come on a 3-pointer by Calathes with the shot clock winding down and 4:07 remaining.
PREPPING FOR THE REGULAR SEASON: The Cavaliers won’t play again until the regular season opener against the New York Knicks on Oct. 30. “Now, we have a good week of practice, to solidify, to correct, and to really, really get inside of our stuff to get ready for the start of the season,” Blatt said.
Grizzlies: close out preseason Friday night at home against the Miami Heat.
Cavaliers: face the New York Knicks to open the regular season Oct. 30.
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