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Wrap-Up – The Cavaliers have been stellar on the defensive end during the course of their recent winning ways. But on Friday night, with the Wine and Gold playing their sixth game in nine nights, that was not the case – as they dropped a 119-114 decision to the Pelicans at the Smoothie King Arena.
After missing the previous night’s game in Oklahoma City with a sore left knee, LeBron James returned to the lineup in style – exploding for a season-high 41 points. The four-time MVP was all-business from the opening tip, tallying 19 points in the first quarter and scoring the Cavs’ final nine points of the third. On the evening, James was 17-of-24 from the floor, adding five boards, five assists and a blocked shot.
Kevin Love followed up with 21 points, doing half his damage from the stripe, where he canned 10-of-11 free throws to go with seven boards and three steals. Kyrie Irving did all of his damage in the fourth quarter, going scoreless through the first three before netting 17 down the stretch on 7-for-10 shooting. Anderson Varejao was the only other Cavalier in double-figures with 11 points, and Tristan Thompson was the squad’s only double-digit rebounder with 10 boards off the bench.
The Cavaliers caught an early break when New Orleans’ All-Star center Anthony Davis had to leave the game with a chest contusion midway through the second quarter. But Tyreke Evans and Ryan Anderson picked up the slack for the Pelicans. Evans went 13-for-24 from the floor, finishing with 31 points and 10 assists. And Anderson – who dropped 32 points on the Cavs in mid-November – went off for 30 more on Friday. In two games against Cleveland this season, Anderson has gone 16-for-26 from long-distance.
Turning Point – The second half of the third period were symbolic of the entire contest. In that stretch, LeBron James punished New Orleans forward Luke Babbit, dropping one jumper after another on the New Orleans’ defender. But on the other end, Cleveland couldn’t get a stop. And despite James’ white-hot barrage, the Wine and Gold simply couldn’t cut into the Pelicans’ double-digit advantage. The Cavaliers trailed by 13 at the five-minute mark and by 13 when the quarter concluded.
By the Numbers – 803 … three-pointers that LeBron James has now hit as a Cavalier, passing the great Mark Price for tops on the Cavaliers all-time list. The top five three-point marksmen in Cavs history are: 1. LeBron James (803), 2. Mark Price (802), 3. Daniel Gibson (578), 4. Wesley Person (550) and 5. Danny Ferry (543).
Quotable – Coach David Blatt, on Friday night’s loss in New Orleans …
”We really didn’t do, on an individual level, an acceptable job of defending anyone. We did not control the ball. We did not close out well on the three point line. We didn’t defend drivers. We didn’t have any aggressiveness or physicality to speak of and their output was the result.”
Up Next – After wrapping up a rough road stretch, the Wine and Gold are back at The Q for a five-game homestand. On Monday, Charlotte makes its first appearance in Cleveland this season. Two nights later, the red-hot Hawks return to Quicken Loans Arena for the second time this year, trying to avenge a 33-point loss back on November 15. On Friday night, the Cavs welcome the Brooklyn Nets to The Q for the first time this season and on Sunday, it’s the campaign’s first matinee as the Cavs welcome Marc Gasol and the Grizzlies to town for a 4:30 affair.