Cavaliers pull away for win over Pelicans on MLK Day
The five-game road trip is finally over for the New Orleans Pelicans.
For three quarters Monday afternoon, the Pelicans hung tough and even maintained a slight lead at Cleveland against an outstanding Eastern Conference opponent that is very difficult to beat on its home floor.
Then came the fourth quarter.
The game got a little too long for the depleted Pelicans as the Cavaliers controlled play in the final frame in a 113-103 victory on Martin Luther King Day.
Once again, New Orleans played without Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson and Herb Jones, which, unfortunately, everyone is used to now.
After the Pelicans carried a narrow through three quarters, the Cavaliers, even without their best player, dominated the fourth quarter, outscoring the Pelicans 35-22 in the final quarter.
Cleveland lived at the free throw line in the final quarter, making 13 of 15 attempts in the period. Cleveland outscored New Orleans 26-17 from the free throw line in the game.
The Pelicans trailed 9-2 when they went on an 11-2 run, which included a dunk and a 3-pointer by Trey Murphy, to take their first lead at 13-11 with 6:26 to play in the first quarter. New Orleans led 25-24 after one quarter as the Cavaliers went on a 10-2 run with their second unit to close what was a nine-point lead for the Pelicans.
The Cavaliers had a clear game plan to deny CJ McCollum the ball, deny him shots and to double him when possible and it worked well in the first half as McCollum was just 2 of 9 for four points. Fortunately for New Orleans, Jonas Valanciunas was excellent, scoring 16 points with seven rebounds while Naji Marshall scored eight points. The Pelicans scored 16 points off eight turnovers by Cleveland and had a 50-47 lead by halftime.
McCollum came alive in the fourth quarter, scoring 15 points as the Pelicans maintained their slight edge at 81-78 going to the final quarter.
The Cavs continued their run, making it a 15-0 run to take an 89-81 lead. The Pelicans would never recover.
The Pelicans finally scored their first point of the fourth quarter on a free throw by McCollum with 7:31 to play in the game.
New Orleans did not make a field goal in the final frame until the 5:55 mark when Murphy made a contested, driving layup.
Donovan Mitchell left the game in the second half with a groin strain but without their star, who recently scored 71 points in a game, the Cavaliers had a lot of firepower to take care of business.
Darius Garland was outstanding with 30 points and 11 assists while Jarrett Allen had 24 points and 11 rebounds.
McCollum led New Orleans with 25 points while Jonas Valanciunas had 22 points and 13 rebounds. No one else rebounded for New Orleans as the Pelicans had just three offensive rebounds. Trey Murphy scored 17 points.
New Orleans shot 50 percent from the field but the Cavaliers crushed the Pelicans 43-28 on the boards, including 13 offensive rebounds. Cleveland whipped New Orleans 52-40 in points in the paint.
Cleveland is now 19-4 at home.
The Pelicans finally return home to host a hot Miami team Wednesday night. The Heat had won three straight games before losing to Atlanta today. The home game for New Orleans precedes two more road games.
The question remains for this promising team.
When will its stars return?
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…