John Henson ties career-high 7 blocks in leading Cavaliers’ defense in comeback win over Memphis Grizzlies

CLEVELAND, Ohio – John Henson was as effective as he’s been all season in his role of rim protector during the Cleveland Cavaliers’ game Friday against the Memphis Grizzlies.

A quality shot blocker throughout his career, Henson tied a career-high seven blocks during the Cavs’ 114-107 win. According to Basketball Reference, Henson’s seven blocks are the most by a Cavalier since Zydrunas Ilgauskas had seven against the Chicago Bulls in 2005.

Henson missed much of the early part of the season with ankle and groin injuries. He played in the Cavs’ second game against Indiana, but went back on the injured list and missed 17 games due to a right hamstring strain.

Since then Henson has played in 10 games. In the nine games before Friday, Henson had six blocks. But against the Grizzlies, he demonstrated his potential impact on Cleveland’s defense.

“I think my niche is just kind of do the small things off the bench, finish when I can and protecting the rim,” Henson said. “That’s kind of the role it’s shaping up to be, and I gotta be good at it.”

With 10:02 left Friday, a bucket from Jordan Clarkson cut the Grizzlies’ lead to 93-83. On the next possession, Henson blocked a shot by 7-footer Jonas Valanciunas. With 8:43 left and the Cavs down 93-86, Henson victimized Valanciunas once again. It sparked a transition opportunity, and Larry Nance Jr. slammed a putback dunk of a Darius Garland miss.

Henson finished with four blocks in the fourth quarter, three against Valanciunas. The two have some history, going back to Henson’s days with the Milwaukee Bucks and Valanciunas’ time with the Toronto Raptors.

Henson, traded to the Cavs in mid-season, missed most of last season with a wrist injury. In 2017, he played for the Bucks in a 4-2 first-round loss to the Raptors.

“We know each other, man, so it was fun,” Henson said.

By the time Henson returned to the bench, the Cavaliers were down by five points but carried the necessary comeback momentum. An energetic defense forced three turnovers but just as importantly slowed the Grizzlies’ pace.

“The group that usually plays at that part of the time, the start of the fourth quarter, did a great job of creating those turnovers,” coach John Beilein said. “John (Henson) was huge with that.”

A young team that’s still learning how to execute on both ends of the floor, particularly late in close games, the Cavs showed needed growth in establishing a winning identity.

“We gotta be a little scrappy,” Henson said. “And I think we gotta move the ball and play hard on defense. That’s kind of a recipe for success and that’s what we’ve been doing last couple of games.”

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