MEMPHIS, TENN.: Kyrie Irving had plenty of time in the second half to sit and think about his sensational night. When he did return late in the fourth quarter Monday, the Cavs’ rookies went cold from the free-throw line in a 109-101 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.
Irving had 25 points and four assists in his finest game since returning from a sprained right shoulder. Since Byron Scott is still limiting his minutes over the season’s final week, Scott pulled him with 3:11 left in the third quarter and didn’t put him back in until four minutes remained in the game. Meanwhile, 28 minutes had elapsed and Irving was cold again by the time he was allowed back in.
As a result, Irving’s first shot attempts were a pair of free throws and he missed them both. Tristan Thompson followed by making just 1 of 4 foul shots and the Cavs went the final three minutes without a basket in another tough loss.
Irving had made 13 consecutive free throws since returning from the sprained shoulder and shoots nearly 90 percent from the line in the fourth quarter, making the misses all the more surprising. The Cavs trailed 100-98 when he missed both.
“It’s very, very unusual for him to miss both free throws,” Scott said. “He had been sitting there for awhile, he was a little cold and wasn’t loosened up. We know how he is at the free-throw line. He’s pretty much money, so it’s a little shocking that he missed both and that got the train rolling for the next four we shot.”
Thompson, who is shooting 55 percent from the line, was targeted by the Grizzlies as a poor free-throw shooter. They had his name up on the grease board in their locker room before the game as a player to target in foul situations.
He was fouled twice while attacking the basket late in the game and converted just once after making his first five attempts on the night.
“It’s situations you want to be in and it helps you grow, especially as a young player,” Thompson said. “Use it as a learning tool and go up and knock down the free throws the next time I’m in that situation.”
Antawn Jamison had 17 points and Thompson had 12 points and nine rebounds before fouling out in the final minute. Alonzo Gee, in his return to the starting lineup following a sprained ankle, had eight points.