That's pretty much the reason why the Cleveland Cavaliers emerged with an easy 105-89 home win Tuesday night. More accurately, the Cavs refused to overlook a Grizzlies team that used to be considered a gimme on weeknight in February.
Of course, focus isn't an issue for the Cavs (39-11) these days. They have now won nine straight, and a lot of those have come rather easily.
Meanwhile, the forever-improving Grizzlies (26-22) were playing a rare deadly double, with back-to-back games against the best team from each conference on consecutive nights (they beat the Lakers on Monday).
Not surprisingly, the Cavs were never really threatened, beating the Grizzlies in every way imaginable -- to rebounds and loose balls, off the fast break and in the halfcourt. Not surprising because the Griz had to be exhausted, and more so, because the Cavs have just been that good lately.
On Tuesday, it was a systematic route, as the Cavs never trailed and led by as many as 28.
"They did a good job of taking us out of our offense," said Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins. "It was a methodical thing."
As usual, it was also a LeBron James thing. The reigning NBA MVP scored 22 points on 7-for-14 shooting, and that wasn't even when he was at his best. He also recorded 15 assists and yet another one of those chase-down blocks, in which he swats an unsuspecting opponent's shot off the backboard from behind.
Even when James plays less than 40 minutes, as he did Tuesday, he continues to give the league the right to proclaim that it truly is the place Where Amazing Happens.
"He's just a great player," Hollins said. "I don't know that there's much more you can say about him. He sees things that other players don't see. We are in a zone (defense) and he knows what's going on. He attacks the basket then throws it out for a 3-pointer. He attacks the basket, then throws it in for a layup."
Another staple of the Cavs' winning streak has been balance, and that was again the case on this night. Besides James, the Cavs received major contributions from guard Daniel Gibson (16 points, 6-for-11 shooting), forward J.J. Hickson (15 points, 8 rebounds) and center Shaquille O'Neal (13 points, 13 boards). Also, Zydrunas Ilgauskas (14 points) and Anderson Varejao (8 points, tons of hustle) came up big off the bench.
On top of all that, the Cavs were magnificent defensively, particularly when it came to guarding Zach Randolph. The Grizzlies' All-Star forward was limited to eight points, or 13 below his season average, on 3-for-14 shooting.
It's no wonder Cavs coach Mike Brown repeatedly used the word "fun" when describing his team's performance.
"For us to play the way we did defensively was extremely fun to watch," Brown said. "That first half was the most fun half I've had watching my team play this year. Even offensively, we were moving the ball side to side, driving and kicking, playing pick-and-roll on the backside, giving the ball to Shaq at the right time and spacing the right way. It was fun to watch."
It was considerably less enjoyable for the Grizzlies, who shot just 38 from the field, including 2-for-14 on 3-pointers. Just don't ask them if they had tired legs.
"(Monday) night had nothing to do with tonight," Hollins said in reference to the hard-fought win over the Lakers. "Tonight had to do with the Cleveland Cavaliers and what they did defensively and what they were doing offensively. We have been playing back-to-backs all year long, and we are going to continue to play them as long as these kids are in the league."
Rudy Gay led the Grizzlies with 15 points and Jamaal Tinsley contributed 12 off the bench.
The Cavs still have five games remaining on their seven-game homestand, the franchise's longest in 15 years. They are 20-3 at home, having avenged an early-season loss in Memphis.
"We're definitely conscious when we lose to a team," James said. "We wanted to play a better game than we did last time, and definitely came out with the mindset just to play to our abilities."
As an interesting aside, the Cavs are now 20-0 when Hickson scores seven points or more.
"I think it's all developing at one time," Hickson said of his game. "When I get myself going on the defensive end, it improves my offense because I'm more active."
By By Sam Amico, For NBA.com
Posted Tuesday February 2, 2010 11:00PM