CLEVELAND — For a minute there, it looked like a case of a new general manager, but the same players, coaches and result.
But for one night, anyway, acting GM David Griffin got some of the smiles and passion he preached about before the game, as the Cavaliers survived some dicey moments to beat the shorthanded Memphis Grizzlies 91-83 in overtime Sunday at Quicken Loans Arena.
The win followed a meeting with Griffin at the team’s morning shootaround, then another with owner Dan Gilbert before the game. After the game, Kyrie Irving even referred to Dion Waiters as one of his “good friends.”
“I’m definitely having a lot of fun out there playing with my teammates,” said Irving, who had 28 points, five rebounds and six assists. “We had a great team meeting with all of us. Going out there and competing at a high level is a lot of fun.”
In winning their second straight since Griffin took over for the fired Chris Grant, the Cavs (18-33) also got 18 points on 7-for-21 shooting, seven rebounds and six assists from Waiters, 14 points from C.J. Miles and eight rebounds from Tyler Zeller.
No one was more important, however, than center Anderson Varejao, who not only finished with four points, 14 rebounds and five assists in 43 minutes, but also held Memphis power forward Zach Randolph scoreless for the final 26:03 of the game.
“He was awesome,” Irving said. “I had to give him a big hug after the game. I don’t know how many injuries that guy has, but he’s playing his butt off. He’s the emotional leader of this team.”
Randolph (14 points, 8 rebounds) had six quick points as Memphis (27-23) went on a 15-4 run to start the third period, turning a 42-33 halftime deficit into a 48-46 lead.
With Tristan Thompson (4 points, 3 rebounds) in foul trouble, Cavs coach Mike Brown turned to Varejao and Randolph didn’t score again.
“Zach Randolph is one of the toughest post covers in the league,” Brown said. “He fights so hard every single possession for position. Andy was hurting, but we said, ‘We’re going to keep him on the floor as long as Zach is on the floor and let him fight.’
“He was the difference in the ballgame tonight. He was huge for us.”
Varejao, who has a sore left knee, among other things, rode a stationary bike when he came out of the game, but held Randolph, who was 6-for-9 from the field early in the third period, to 0-for-7 shooting from that point.
Randolph, who also had the ball stripped by Varejao with the game tied in the closing seconds of regulation, became so frustrated he got a technical midway through the fourth quarter.
“After playing 43 minutes, his whole body is hurting,” Brown said of Varejao. “The only thing that might not be hurting is his curls.”
After Randolph’s “T,” the Cavs led 74-65 with 6:24 left in the fourth quarter. Then they turned into the team they’ve been for long stretches of the season, as Memphis’ James Johnson, a fifth-year player from Wake Forest, scored 13 straight points to put the Grizzlies up 78-74 with 2:10 to play.
The Cavs didn’t score for 4:56, their offense turning into Irving and Waiters dribbling the ball all over the court before missing a shot, but this time they found a way to regroup.
“For our guys to somehow, someway withstand that 13-point run … is very encouraging,” Brown said. “Hopefully, we can continue to build off it.”
With Cleveland down two, Irving drove, scored and was fouled with 18.1 seconds left in regulation, but missed the free throw.
The Grizzlies, who were without their starting backcourt of Mike Conley (sprained ankle) and Tony Allen (sprained wrist), called time, but Varejao stripped the ball from Randolph and Waiters missed a desperation heave at the buzzer.
“I give Andy a lot of credit,” Brown said. “That was a heckuva play.”
The Cavs never trailed in OT, as Luol Deng hit a 3-pointer to beat the shot clock after Cleveland nearly threw the ball away on its first possession.
Waiters pretty much assured victory when he drove and threw down a resounding dunk that put the Cavs up six with 41.1 seconds to go, leaving Cleveland players in a good mood as they prepare to host Sacramento on Tuesday and play in Detroit on Wednesday before the All-Star break.
“We don’t have to go outside our boundaries and try something new,” Irving said. “We’ve just got to trust one another and stick to our game plan and we can get a lot of wins.”
• Memphis’ 33 first-half points tied for the fewest given up in a half by the Cavs this season.
• Randolph received three stitches above his left eye after a loose ball foul on Thompson with 4:55 left in the first half.
• Irving had 14 points in the first quarter, but had only one point — it came after an illegal defense call on the Grizzlies — over the next 21:40.
• The last time the Cavs had a two-game winning streak was Jan. 7 and 10, when they beat Philadelphia and Utah.
• The Grizzlies had just five points in OT.
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @RickNoland.