Before the start of tonight’s contest, Zion Williamson, Trey Murphy and Jose Alvarado were honored in front of the Smoothie King crowd for their selections to the 2023 NBA All Star and Rising Stars games.
That was the best moment on this Friday night because no disappointment had been suffered yet.
In a game that got away from them in the first half, the New Orleans Pelicans were crushed by the Cleveland Cavaliers, 118-107.
Sure, the first three offensive possessions for the Pelicans offered hope. Brandon Ingram opened the scoring with a furious drive and dunk. A Trey Murphy 3-pointer and a nice seal underneath the rim leading to an easy bucket for Jonas Valanciunas followed.
But then the scoring slowed.
Meanwhile, the Cavaliers never let off the gas.
The Pelicans wound up losing the first quarter by a 38-28 margin. They trailed the Cavaliers by 22 points not six minutes into the second. The halftime score stood at 73-56.
It was a putrid display on the defensive end. The Cavaliers got anything their hearts desired. Open perimeter shots? Check. Donovan Mitchell getting into the lane? Check. Lobs and other easy opportunities for Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley? Double check. And in the rare instances when the Cavaliers missed, they kept many a possession alive with an offensive rebound.
No improvement was witnessed in the third quarter. With a little more than a minute left, the deficit stood at 101-76. The Pelicans went on a 7-2 run to start the fourth, to climb within 14 points, but the Cavaliers quickly regained full command.
Donovan Mitchell, who entered averaging 16.2 points on frigid shooting over his last six games, set the tone, scoring 21 of his 30 points in the first half. The Pelicans simply couldn’t stay in front of him as he made six of eight shots in the lane.
The Pelicans showed a complete inability to play to their strengths for the entirety of the contest. They were manhandled on the glass (41-34), in points in the paint (70-58), and on second chance points (25-10).
Case in point Jarret Allen (20 points, 11 rebounds, two blocks) and Evan Mobley (28 points, 13 rebounds, four steals, two blocks) finished with spectacular lines.
Brandon Ingram led the Pelicans with 25 points and eight assists, Trey Murphy added 17 points and four rebounds and Herb Jones had 11.
CJ McCollum failed to find the bottom in five attempts from deep to finish with 12 points, but no one struggled to make an impact more than Jonas Valanciunas (seven points, seven rebounds).
There should be a petition for never allowing another 9:00 p.m. start in New Orleans again, right?
Despite the lopsided loss, the Pelicans finished the four-game home stand with a 3-1 record. They’ll play twice next week on the road — against the Thunder on Monday and then the Lakers on Wednesday — before the start of the All-Star break.
Two wins would be really nice.
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