Gasol scored at least 20 points for the seventh time in the last 10 games and 30th time overall as the hot-shooting Grizzlies ran their home winning streak to four games.
Coming off Tuesday’s loss in Minnesota, which snapped a club-record six-game winning streak, Memphis jumped on Cleveland early, using a 23-4 run to open up a 40-22 cushion after one quarter. It was the third straight home game the Grizzlies reached 40 points in the first 12 minutes.
With 2:49 remaining and Memphis leading, 119-96, the game was paused for President Bush’s national address concerning military action in Iraq.
“We told our players that basketball was secondary when it came to President Bush’s address,” Grizzlies coach Hubie Brown said. “Especially if you have a relative involved - that supercedes everything else.”
Gasol had just nine points Tuesday, but had 13 in the big first quarter and 19 at halftime as Memphis took a 66-52 advantage into the locker room.
“The energy I think was key,” Gasol said. “Coming back from Minnesota, we did a good job of keeping our energy high and running up and down, pushing the ball really hard and sharing it.”
“This was a good win for us,” Memphis forward Shane Battier added. “We were playing a team that was potentially dangerous. They beat Utah by 30 the other night, so we didn’t want them coming in here and surprising us.”
Gasol had a pair of 3-point plays as Memphis opened up a 10-point lead. The Grizzlies then scored 15 straight to run the Cavaliers out of the building and shot 68 percent (15-of-22).
Despite the strong showing in the first half, Brown expressed his dissatisfaction for all of the dunks and transition baskets his team gave up.
“In the first half, we didn’t like the way that we were playing,” he said. “We gave up too many dunks and didn’t have enough coverage. That is not the way we want to play basketball.”
The Cavs got within 82-72 with 5:20 remaining in the third period. But after a timeout, the Grizzlies regrouped and took a 95-81 advantage into the fourth quarter. They used an 8-2 spurt to push the lead to 103-83 with just under nine minutes remaining.
“We had to continue to put the pressure on,” Memphis swingman Mike Miller said. “In the second half we just had to put the pressure on and we did that. We gave up some runs and they made a run in the first half. Pretty much in the second half, we just kept our composure and kept the pressure on them.”
The Grizzlies placed six players in double figures and set a franchise record for points in a regulation game and shooting percentage. They finished at 61 percent (52-of-85), which eclipsed the record set in last Wednesday’s win over Chicago.
Solid shooting performances have resulted in the best stretch of the season for Memphis, which entered the game seventh in the NBA at 45.4 percent. The Grizzlies have shot over 50 percent in five of their last eight games and clicked at 57 percent (47-of-82) in their 115-89 win at Cleveland on March 8.
Cleveland, which allowed 120 points or more for the fourth time this season, was led by rookie Carlos Boozer, who scored a career-high 27 points.
Boozer, who came into the game second in the league at 53 percent from the field and first among rookies, shot 12-of-15 and also grabbed 12 rebounds.
The Cavaliers also got a limited contribution from leading scorer Ricky Davis. Two games after just missing his first career triple-double, he was held to nine points on 4-of-14 from the floor.
“Everyone has to play well for our team to play well and have a chance to be in the basketball game,” Cleveland interim coach Keith Smart said. “One or two guys don’t play well, then we don’t have a chance. We don’t have that makeup of a basketball team right now.”
“He’s absolutely right,” Boozer said. “We’re one of those teams where all five players have to do well. That is just the kind of team we are.”