Pelicans.com postgame: Pelicans 104, Cavaliers 100
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
Trailing by a dozen points with four-plus minutes remaining Friday, the New Orleans Pelicans needed some offense in a hurry against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Fortunately for the Pelicans, a five-man unit NBA.com recently called the team’s “ultimate offensive lineup” delivered in the clutch.
New Orleans scored 23 points in the final 4:44 of the game, turning a 93-81 deficit into a thrilling comeback win over Cleveland (4-9). The Pelicans (6-6) received contributions from starters Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon and Anthony Davis during the furious rally, as well as potent reserve scorers Ryan Anderson and Tyreke Evans. All five members of the high-powered quintet scored at least three points during the 23-7 surge, with Gordon making the biggest shot of the night, a three-pointer that put New Orleans in front 100-98 with 31 seconds remaining. Evans and Holiday sealed the dramatic win by dropping in two free throws apiece over the final 19 seconds.
“It’s a tough lineup,” Davis said after his 17-point, 13-rebound, three-block performance. “Everyone is capable of scoring the ball. It’s a lineup we’re probably going to go to a lot.”
“This was a big win for us, because we showed we can win at the end when we are down and have to claw and fight our way back,” Anderson said. “It’s something we didn’t really show at the beginning of the season, but we did it tonight.”
It didn’t look like Pelicans fourth-year coach Monty Williams would be earning his 100th career victory through much of Friday's game. Cleveland took a 51-42 lead into halftime and appeared to be in command when it opened the fourth quarter on a 22-11 surge to go up 93-81. New Orleans managed to score the next nine points, however, pulling within 93-90. Cavaliers All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving seemed to restore order for the visitors with a mid-range jumper at the two-minute mark, but Anderson and Davis scored baskets to force a tie at 95. The clubs exchanged the lead until Gordon’s trey from the left side, one of the biggest shots he’s made in two-plus seasons with New Orleans.
“Defensively, I think we just locked in in the final five minutes,” Holiday said. “It’s all about making big plays. Some of the best teams do that, where they might start off the game for the first three quarters and nothing’s going right, but they stick with the gameplan. Defensively they get a lot of stops and it fuels their offense.”
Williams indicated after the game that just prior to the comeback from down 12, Holiday gathered teammates together in the huddle and told them it was a chance to show maturity as a team. In the postgame locker room, Holiday confirmed Williams’ account of what took place.
“I felt like it was time for us to grow and grow together,” Holiday said of his message to the team. “I think everybody responded to that and picked up their defense.”
As a result, New Orleans capped a perfect 3-0 homestand that also included victories over Philadelphia and Utah. The Pelicans got back to .500 for the second time this season. The Pelicans now head into a difficult back-to-back set Monday and Tuesday against Western Conference powers San Antonio and Golden State.
“I think this is big to move forward with, because we have the confidence that we can do it,” Anderson said of not playing well overall but still posting a win. “It wasn’t a very clean game. It was a pretty sloppy game for us, but we were just fighting through it.”
With the Pelicans’ five most talented players on the floor, Holiday was most pleased with the unit’s defense, which held the Cavaliers to just three field goals during the decisive stretch.
“Scorers or not,” Holiday said of the five players who all boast career double-digit point averages, “if we can play defense with the five that are out there, we’re going to be tough.”