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The Pelicans welcome LeBron James and the Cavaliers to the Blender

New Orleans faces an uphill climb in ending their losing streak with Cleveland rolling into town.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

After a disappointing 108-101 loss to the Houston Rockets, the New Orleans Pelicans are still among the bottom dwellers of the league. Tyreke Evans and Norris Cole, providing depth for the immediate future with Quincy Pondexter looming on the horizon, look to solidify the small forward position in the near future.

But there are other problems that persist on the roster. The center position is one that appears to be a hot topic as of late, as Alexis Ajinca and Omer Asik have been less than stellar after New Orleans doubled down and brought them back. The Pelicans are 30th in the league in defensive efficiency, 23rd on field goal percentage allowed at the rim and 29th in field goal percentage on shots from 25 to 29 feet.

Defensive woes have been the main issue, while other smaller details have bothered the team (offensive rebounding being one of them). I'm curious to see what assistant head coach Darren Erman does to tweak the defense moving forward. For now, let's talk Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Cavaliers have been great: third in the league in offensive efficiency at 109.3 and 10th in defensive efficiency at 103.1, per Nylon Calculus. They do well stopping teams from getting offensive rebounds (19.8 offensive rebound percentage - tied with San Antonio for the league lead) and rank ninth in opponent's free throw rate, per's stats.

Their play has been excellent considering their injury situation. Without Iman Shumpert and Kyrie Irving, the Cavaliers sit with a record of 13-5 and possess the second-best point differential in the East at +5.5 (behind the phenomenal Indiana Pacers). Lost in Golden State's praise, properly earned, the Cavaliers look formidable once again.

After years of ultimate efficiency and dominant play, there has been some minor cracks in LeBron James' armor. He's taken a small step back as a defender this season and his three-point shooting has dwindled to 28 percent this season. Still, you can't really complain about 25.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, 6.4 assists with a 56.2 TS%.

In Shumpert and Irving's absence, Kevin Love has played well. He seems more comfortable in his position after a slow start last season. A scoring drop from his days in Minnesota, Love is averaging 19.2 points and 11.6 rebounds, providing excellent big man passing (2.3 assists, 11.4 assist rate) and hitting 39.7 percent on 6.7 attempts per game.

The duo is incredible. The surrounding cast has been less so, but it's the sum of the parts - led by LeBron and Love. Mo Williams has been solid at point guard, J.R. Smith is J.R. Smith, Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mozgov provide defense (Love, LeBron, Thompson trio: +12.9 net rating, 91.0 defensive efficiency in 212 minutes so far) and Matthew Dellavedova - LeBron, Delly, Thompson has a +23.1 net rating and 87.7 defensive efficiency rating in 236 minutes! - is grit, defense and another engineer in the second unit.

In short, it's fun in Cleveland.

Keys to Victory

Anthony Davis-Ryan Anderson combination - The Pelicans have this combination in tow and I think Friday night is a place where Alvin Gentry should be comfortable to use it. Kevin Love is not a great defender, and pulling him out to the perimeter could only create some problems. Anderson has struggled recently, shooting under 35 percent in his last five games, but I think this is a game where he could have an advantage and get back in rhythm.

Attacking the rim - The Cavaliers actually have a space to attack, as they allow the highest field goal percentage on 10-14 feet. The Pelicans are 27th in the league from that area. So, I propose attacking the rim. The Cavaliers are good, but they also rank 14th in the league, and with Tyreke Evans (20 drives in his first two games) and Jrue Holiday (8.2 drives per game), the Pels can look at to attack and hopefully find good fortune inside.

Eric Gordon - With the return of Evans, Eric Gordon has been the one jerked around the most so far, going from the bench in his return and back to the starting lineup when Jrue sat out against Houston. Against Cleveland, Gordon will go back to the bench. He wasn't great against the Rockets, but he had moments. Against a team without a real monster defensively in the second unit (I could see Delly on him for stretches), I can see Gordon having a decent game.

The Pelicans should be able to stay with Cleveland early and the combination of Gordon, Anderson, Evans and Davis should create some intrigue. What will determine New Orleans' success as the game moves into its final moments will be the defense. Can it hold onto an early lead for a change?