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Wrap-Up -- The Cavaliers and their unquestioned leader are starting to sense the season’s finish line – and they’re progressively starting to look like the squad they’ll want to be two weeks from now.
Returning from a three-game road trip, and with just seven games to play in the regular season, the Cavaliers overcame a 13-point third-quarter deficit and rode LeBron James’ hot fourth quarter home – winning their fourth straight over the Pelicans, 107-102, on Friday night at The Q.
LeBron got his historic milestone out of the way in the first period – notching 11 points in the quarter to reach double-digit scoring for the 867th consecutive game, eclipsing Michael Jordan for the NBA’s all-time mark.
From there on, James was all business – and he saved his best for last, scoring eight-straight points, including three-straight jumpers with just under four minutes to play from almost the exact same spot on the floor to give the Cavaliers just enough breathing room for their 46th victory of the season.
The Cavaliers’ next-highest scorer was Jordan Clarkson – who finished with 23 points off the bench, going 9-of-13 from the floor, including 4-of-4 from beyond the arc, adding four boards and a pair of assists.
Rodney Hood was the only other Cavalier in double-figures – notching double-figures for the fourth-straight game, going 7-of-11 from the floor, including 2-of-3 from long-range, for 16 points.
Tristan Thompson continued his excellent work off the boards in a reserve role. Since returning to the rotation one week ago after missing the previous nine games with an injured ankle, Thompson has snagged double-digit rebounds, including on Friday night when he led both teams with 14 (six offensive) in just 20 minutes – adding four points and a blocked shot.
Clarkson tallies 23 as Cavs rally past the Pelicans.
Jrue Holiday led the way for New Orleans – netting 10 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, going 12-for-18 from the floor overall. Anthony Davis, who’s in the thick of the MVP discussion along with LeBron and James Harden, had a quiet night at The Q – finishing with just 16 points and eight boards in the loss.
Turning Point -- As good as LeBron was down the stretch in the fourth, it was Cleveland’s late third-quarter push – keyed by Jordan Clarkson – that got the Cavaliers within striking distance for their run in the final period.
After trailing by as many as 13 with 7:09 in the third, the Wine & Gold whittled New Orleans’ edge down to eight with 3:29 to play. Clarkson proceeded to drain two-straight bombs followed by a LeBron tip-in to get Cleveland back to within a deuce, 77-75.
With under a minute to play in the period, Jeff Green scored on an and-one to give the Cavs their first lead since the first quarter.
In the fourth, the Cavaliers would actually improve their lead to as many as seven before holding off the Pelicans in the closing moments.
By the Numbers – 941 … career games that LeBron James has scored at least 20 points, tying him with Kobe Bryant for third on the NBA’s all-time list. James also has 428 games of at least 30 points – and the next one will tie him with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for fifth place at 429.
Quotable – LeBron James, on whether he had time to savor the moment when he broke MJ’s mark …
"A little bit, but I knew I had to get back to work. They’re not going to stop the game for long and we were on the defensive end, so I didn’t have much time to soak it in. I don’t know if I’ll do that tonight or in the offseason or whenever and look at it, but I didn’t have much time tonight."
Up Next -- After closing out the month of March with a win against the Pelicans, the Cavaliers welcome another Western Conference squad this weekend on Easter Sunday, when Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks come to town. On Tuesday night, it’s another heavyweight battle with the Raptors at The Q, followed by a visit from John Wall and the Wizards two nights later. Cleveland plays two of their final three on the road – taking on the Sixers next Friday night and the Knicks on Monday. The Wine & Gold close out the regular season on April 11 when the Knicks come to town for Fan Appreciation Night.