Thank God for the Cavs.
This up-and-down Pelicans squad of ours came out winners tonight against the 4-time NBA Eastern Conference champs, now cellar-dwellers, 133-98 in Cleveland. The Pels are again matching wins with losses in five straight contests and will look to grab a second consecutive W Monday at home against Memphis. Cleveland has lost nine in a row.
Nola didn’t appear overly desperate early, but produced good offense, especially when Jrue Holiday took the floor. He made seven of his first nine shots, and he finally provided the clamps on shot-happy Jordan Clarkson (6-11 FG, 15 points in 1st half). Overall, New Orleans shot nearly 60 percent in the first half and held a 61-52 lead at the half. After a quick 5-0 spurt to open the second half, Cleveland called timeout while their fans not-so-secretly celebrated another loss to bring them closer to Zion Williamson or RJ Barrett or whomever they might draft early in the lottery.
The Pels turned that 5-0 spurt into a 15-0 wave to start the second half and the last 18 minutes were garbage time.
Jordan Clarkson got introduced to first-team All-Defense Jrue Holiday pic.twitter.com/J8tJQwivz6— Will Guillory (@WillGuillory) January 6, 2019
Anthony Davis had 20 points, 10 rebounds, four steals, Holiday finished with 22, and Julius Randle had 22 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists. Cleveland was led by 23 from Clarkson. An NBA player named Jalen Jones had 15 points, and Tristan Thompson had 10 points, 11 rebounds.
The big Pelicans problem has been defense, credited by many on this site as well as the coaches and players themselves, as a lack of intensity or focus early in games. That appeared to continue tonight, but the Pels got away with it because they have superior talent and experience. Even then, the Pels were nip and tuck with the Cavs for the entire first quarter, leading by just two after 12 minutes.
Cleveland made six early 3-pointers, those shots made by Collin Sexton, Clarkson, Alec Burks and The Savior, er, Cedi Osman; but outside of that, the Cavs had a hard time generating offense, sometimes devolving to step-back mid-rangers and various post-ups; even with their six first quarter 3s, they shot just 37 percent in the 1st quarter.
Effort increased in the second half in those early minutes when Nola took a nine-point advantage to as much as 31. It’s nice to know the Pels could hit that “on/off” switch... though, one must ask if the final score has more to do with the Dumpster Fire on The Erie than anything else.
The biggest positive from tonight must have been the bench. The crew rebounded from a five-point effort a few days ago, with Darius Miller, Frank Jackson and Jahlil Okafor showing sparks in the first half. Miller finished with 14, Jackson had six points, five rebounds and three assists, Okafor had 10 points. Ian Clark even made a couple shots! Solomon Hill struggled in his four first half minutes (DNP 2nd half). It’s still hard to tell what the “regular rotation” should be — we’re putting out an APB on Wesley Johnson — but that group needs to jell against non-Cleveland teams.
Jen Hale reported Niko Mirotic may return to the team either Monday vs. MEM or Wednesday vs. CLE after being missing in action since December 12. We all miss Three-kola!
Unfortunately, E’Twaun Moore injured his knee or leg in the second half. We’ll have all the updates whenever we find out more info. Prayers up to E’Twaun!
It’s uplifting to see Tristan Thompson become a more valuable offensive cog after being relegated to simply a screen-setter and offensive rebounder during the LBJ years. He’s got more skills than you may have ever known. Time to shine!
One of Jrue’s many skills includes his precognitive abilities to time cuts to the hoop when a teammate has the ball. He knows when to go, what angle to go at and how to ward off defenders once he receives the pass. Jrue’s game is timeless. He and Elfrid Payton thrive on cuts.
Play of the night: Tim Frazier stuffing Cedi Osman. You’d think Cedi would be better around the hoop after all those training sessions with LBJ, KD and Kawhi.
Next up: The Memphis Grizzlies at home on Monday.