Ilgauskas, Cleveland’s slow-footed 7-foot-3 center, scored 14 points, added 12 rebounds and drew two offensive fouls as the Cavaliers clamped down defensively on Memphis in an 89-70 rout Friday night.
“I can’t remember the last time he took two charges in an entire season,” James, who added 16 points, said of the lengthy Lithuanian.
The game was telecast live in China, where James visited last summer and where his new sneaker line will be launched. The overseas audience and Cleveland’s swelling fan base weren’t treated to any high-flying slam dunks by James, but the Cavaliers did provide a lesson in team play.
“We shut them down defensively,” James said. “It was all about defense, that transferred to turnovers. We got out on the break and we’ve got good shooters.”
The Cavs, improving each time out under first-year coach Mike Brown, contested every shot, outhustled the Grizzlies to every loose ball and dominated the boards, outrebounding Memphis 49-29 while holding it to a season low in points.
Cleveland’s swarming defense limited Memphis to just 12 points on 3-of-14 shooting in the third quarter when the Grizzlies went 9:03 between field goals, allowing the Cavs to open a 27-point lead.
“This one was all about Cleveland,” Grizzlies coach Mike Fratello said. “They played very unselfish. They shared the ball and played defense.”
The Grizzlies came in averaging 95 points on 47.3 percent shooting—the NBA’s fourth-best mark—but were held to 36 percent shooting and made only nine free throws.
Ilgauskas, whose career has been slowed by foot injuries, has been working hard on his defense.
“It’s been a long way to go because of my injuries, but I feel like I’m helping the team more in the paint,” he said.
James had six rebounds and two assists in 26 foul-plagued minutes for Cleveland. He needs 10 points to become the youngest player in NBA history to reach 4,000 career points. James (20 years, 316 days) will likely hit the mark and pass Kobe Bryant (21 years, 216 days) when the Cavaliers play at Orlando on Sunday.
Brown credited James with staying mentally sharp despite the foul problem.
“He stayed into the game,” Brown said. “He was in the huddle talking to the young guys and told them to get stops.”
After the Grizzlies pulled within 11 in the third, the Cavs reeled off 13 straight points to put it away, coasting to their third straight blowout win at home. Cleveland’s three home victories have been by an average of 23 points.
Ilgauskas scored eight points in a row, but James provided the most memorable basket during the spurt.
He missed a 3-pointer from up top but grabbed the long rebound near the foul line. James used a head shake to dribble past Bobby Jackson and then got around center Jake Tsakalidis by faking a behind-the-back pass and laying it in with his right hand to make it 66-43.
The Cavs pushed their lead to 71-44 late in the third.
Strapped with three fouls, James scored eight points and played only 11 minutes in the first half.But after he picked up foul No. 3 and went out, the Cavs ripped off seven straight points as Damon Jones hit a 3-pointer and another jumper before Eric Snow’s basket made it 41-21.
Gasol, averaging 21.8 points coming in, didn’t get his first bucket until 5:54 remained in the second quarter when the Grizzlies were down by 20.
Ilgauskas passed Austin Carr for third place on the Cavs’ career free throw list with 2,128 attempts. His 1,632 made shots, moved him into fifth place all-time. … Grizzlies F Shane Battier had a season-high four blocks. … The Cavs came in leading the NBA in free-throw percentage (83.0), and went 17-for-19. … Fratello saw the gigantic billboard of James, which in just a few days has become a downtown tourist site. “It looks good,” said Fratello, who coached the Cavs from 1993-99. “It’s nice that Cleveland has a player like that to hang its hat on.” … Damon Jones is boycotting the media. He hasn’t spoken to reporters since Brown selected Snow as the club’s starting point guard.