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The Cavaliers Awaken to Beat the Pelicans, 118-111

This was the Cavalier team that many experts predicted we'd see in preseason.

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Some nights don't go your way, and this ended up being one of them. The Pelicans held a halftime lead of 5 points, after comfortably staying ahead of the Cavaliers for most of the first half. In the second half, the beast that was supposed to reside in the East awoke.

LeBron James got things going by scoring the first 9 points for Cleveland. Then Kyrie Irving took his turn by scoring 13 of the next 18 Cavalier points. For good measure, LeBron added 5 more points in the final minute of the 3rd quarter.

In the fourth quarter, Kevin Love took center stage by hitting 3 straight bombs. Through all the carnage though, the Pelicans never gave up. Specifically, Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson had monster games by combining for 59 points. Unfortunately, a third Pelican wasn't able to sustain a consistent performance to help overcome the Cavalier's Big 3 (Irving-LeBron-Love) of 86 points!!!

Game Notes

- Anthony Davis has now been a certifiable stud in 5 of the Pelicans first 6 games. Tonight he went for 27 points, 14 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals, 3 blocks against ZERO turnovers. There is no doubt he should have earned a few more points from the charity stripe, but the referees let the boys play tonight (well except for anyone who intruded into LeBron's airspace).

- Ryan Anderson entered the game ablaze. No sooner than he had checked in, he already had amassed 6 points on 2 three pointers. The Arsenal never quit and at halftime, he had 23 points including 5 three's. For the game, he finished with 32 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal and count them -- 8 three pointers! Coming into tonight, he had made 9 in 5 games. Look out Stephen Curry!

- Tyreke Evans couldn't throw it into the ocean tonight as evidenced by his 2 of 14 from the floor. However, his effort was there and he made some fantastic feeds to finish with 10 assists. In the first quarter, his defense actually bothered LeBron on several possessions, but then the King turned it on, and by ending up on the favorable side of the whistle, Evans was bound to foul out of the game as he did.

- Eric Gordon had a few moments (10 points), but as a whole, I just don't see it anymore. Even though his effort continues to be there, his defense remains below average, and offensively, he still moves too fast with the ball to the point you think the next turnover is going to happen. I really think the team would be better served by reducing his role now, at least until he improves in several facets.

- Austin Rivers started the game with a bang by nailing two three pointers upon entering the game in the first quarter. He would go on to add 4 assists, but I was most impressed by the mental edge he continues to display. Specifically, on one drive to the rim, he was fouled several times including taking a shot to the face. After dusting himself off, he continued to go about his business. There is no doubt, I'd like to see him start taking away minutes from Eric Gordon. Winning now means playing the better performers and right now Rivers is heads and shoulders above Gordon. This is not the same player we've seen the last couple of seasons.

- Jrue Holiday was probably the third most influential Pelican behind the incredible Anderson-Davis duo as he poured in 16 points, 3 rebounds and 5 assists. He had some moments, on both ends of the floor, but I don't think he's 100% yet. Irving definitely got the better of him tonight.

- Omer Asik grabbed 10 rebounds and altered some shots, but in general it was a quiet night for the Turkish center. He got his hands on a number of potential rebounds but was never able to corral them. Fantastic job by Cleveland in keeping a body on Asik most of the time.

3 Statistics

  1. 27 - Both teams attempted this amount of three pointers. While that's great news for our offense, defensively that's a recipe for disaster when the other side boasts some incredible shooters and the game is at their place.
  2. 12 - The amount of offensive rebounds by the Cavaliers tonight. After only giving up 4 in the first half, the Pelicans started have problems with the defensive boards in the 3rd quarter. Great teams are more consistent with their fundamentals, but panic not, it will come. It hurt that Evans had his hands full with LeBron and no other guard stepped up. Not having a real SF step forward yet (pray Darius Miller or Luke Babbitt change that soon), is going to be an issue.
  3. 31 - The number of Pelican assists tonight. The ball movement was great and for much of the game the offense flowed very well. However, in the 2nd half, good looks were much harder to come by as the Cavaliers really turned it up a notch. In time, the Pelicans offense will hopefully learn to execute throughout an entire game against good competition.

Concluding Thoughts

The championship contender that everyone expected to show in Cleveland made an appearance in the second half. My hats off to them. When an opposing team's stars click and our defense is unable to limit anyone, bad losses will usually result. It was a testament to the Pelicans that they remained in the game until the waning moments.

Had the Pelicans grabbed a couple more defensive boards in the 3rd quarter, perhaps gotten a few more deserved calls or had Evans merely made his average share of shots around the rim, the Pelicans could have found themselves in another last second game like in San Antonio. This, despite the onslaught of the Cavaliers Big 3.

Out of our three losses this year, this one shouldn't be too difficult to swallow. There were a lot of positives, and based on our recent play, I firmly believe the Pelicans will walk away with wins against our next two opponents, the Lakers and the Wolves. Coming into the season, a 5-3 start would have been one of the better case scenarios.