Following Naji Marshall’s floater with 72 seconds remaining in the third quarter, the Pelicans led 81-74. At the 8:19 mark of the fourth, they trailed 89-81.
“Just ran out of gas, didn’t make enough plays” Willie Green said. “Give them credit. They started the fourth quarter with a lot of juice, an 11-0 run. Like I told our guys in the locker room, our margin for error is small.”
The Pelicans fell by a final score of 113-103 because they couldn’t keep pace with the Cavaliers in several areas. Over the final 13 minutes plus, they were out-rebounded 16-5 (6-0 on the offensive glass), were outshot from the field (45.0% vs 36.8%) and were dominated at the charity strip.
The Cavaliers were clearly more aggressive and were rewarded for it, shooting 11 more free throws during the last stretch.
“We didn’t hit shots, also didn’t get rebounds to finish possessions,” Murphy said. “We had a lot of good open looks, but we didn’t hit them in the fourth quarter. That’s what it boils down to. It’s a make or miss league.
The Pelicans lost a number of key statistics that are crucial to their success. In addition to the wide disparities witnessed on the glass and at the free throw line, the Cavaliers easily won the points in the paint (52-40) and second chance points (19-8) battles.
That’s a shame because the Pelicans were the better team through the first 35 minutes. They shot the ball at a higher clip and their defense was stouter.
For instance, Dyson Daniels did a wonderful job of frustrating Donovan Mitchell. You know, the player who scored 71 points and dropped 11 dimes against the Chicago Bulls at the start of this month.
“I thought he was really good defensively, like you said, especially in the first half,” Green said. “Physical, getting deflections, getting steals, allowing us to get out and play in the open floor on the offensive end.”
Daniels racked up four first-half steals — two against Mitchell — and was a big reason why the sure-to-be 2023 All-Star was held to 11 points.
Mitchell would go on to leave the game with a left groin strain in the second half; however, Darius Garland picked up the slack, proving the Cavaliers have one of the best starting backcourts in the league.
Garland 16 of his 30 points during Cleveland’s big push that began late in the third quarter. Jarrett Allen contributed 12 of his 24 during this span as well.
Evan Mobley (19 points, 8-10 FGAs) and Allen (24 points, 9-12 FGAs) combined efforts to overcome Jonas Valanciunas’ sublime effort of 22 points on seven of nine shooting.
CJ McCollum led the Pelicans with 25 points, tallying 21 of them in the second half.
Trey Murphy attacked the lane as much as he did from distance, totaling 17 points.
Naji Marshall had 14 points, three rebounds and three assists.
Larry Nance Jr (four points, three rebounds, three assists) and Jose Alvarado (10 points, five assists, three steals) were solid off the bench, but New Orleans needed more production from Jaxson Hayes and Devonte’ Graham.
The Pelicans wrapped up their five-game road trip with a 2-3 record. They’ll receive a day off tomorrow, before taking the court against the Miami Heat in the Smoothie King Center on Wednesday.