With the Big Three of LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving combining for 86 points on the night, the Cleveland Cavaliers used a 16-1 third quarter run to bounce back and defeat the visiting New Orleans Pelicans by a 118-111 score on Monday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
James, who collected a triple double on the night, scored 17 points in the third quarter as he and Irving combined for 30 of the 34 points in that period. The duo would each finish with 32 points apiece after combining for just 15 in the first half.
Love, who contributed 22, connected on four of his six three-pointers in the final quarter. His final trey gave the team some breathing room, after New Orleans had gotten to within two points at 101-99 with 3:56 left in the game, beginning a run of nine straight points that effectively put the game away 90 seconds later.
After the game, James gave credit to Irving for sparking the comeback by saying, “He got us into our game,” and also offered an opinion on the point guard’s potential. “When he gets going, there’s not too many people who can stop him,” said James.
Cavs Head Coach David Blatt also offered plenty of praise for Irving’s effort saying, “Kyrie really played a high level game, and he distributed the ball really well.” Blatt also added, “He played the game with passion and our guys fed off of it,” noting that over the past four games, Irving has committed just a single turnover.
Blatt also expressed surprise that James’ effort was almost being overlooked by commenting, “That number 23 was pretty good tonight,” before then noting that with his talent, “It’s easy to overlook that guy.”
Cleveland was in control early by tallying the first seven points of the game in less than 90 seconds worth of action. They then watched the Pelicans roar back by going on a 26-11 run over the next eight minutes. That advantage would remain in favor of New Orleans for most of the next two quarters.
Ryan Anderson, who also finished with 32 points, paced the Pelicans by hitting eight three-pointers. The lone quarter in which he was held in check was the third, and when Love was asked after the game what the Cavaliers did during that stretch, he said, “We changed up our coverages on him.”
Five of Anderson’s long-range bombs paced the New Orleans’ early surge as Cleveland fell behind by as many as 12 at 42-30. The Cavs would run off eight straight points to cut their deficit to just four, but the Pelicans increased the margin back up to nine at 49-40.
Cleveland would then score six consecutive points to get back to within three with 1:40 to go before intermission, but New Orleans ended the half holding a 56-51 lead.
During the first portion of the third quarter, James served as virtually the Cavaliers’ entire offense by scoring 12 of the team’s first 16 points. That effort allowed the Cavs to be within striking distance of a Pelicans team that maintained the lead.
On three separate occasions, Cleveland got to within two points of New Orleans, but was unable to knot the score, as the Pelicans boosted their lead back up to nine points at 78-69 with 4:38 remaining in the quarter.
Irving began the third quarter comeback by scoring nine unanswered points, the last three coming on a long distance shot that tied the game at 78. After the Pelicans’ Eric Gordon split a pair of free throws, Tristan Thompson gave the Cavaliers their first lead since an 18-17 first quarter advantage when he dunked the ball with 1:36 remaining.
When asked about the comeback in postgame comments, Irving said, “LeBron told me to just keep pushing the tempo,” before then adding, “That’s going to be the biggest word all year: trust.”
After James connected on three of four free throws over the next minute, he closed out the quarter on a thundering dunk with just 2.6 seconds to go, giving the Cavs an 85-79 lead entering the final stanza.
After the contest, Blatt discussed the defensive troubles of the team saying, “I’m a little disappointed with the moments of lethargy on defense. We can’t afford to let up,” before adding his concern about the situation. “That’s disturbing. That’s worrisome,” said Blatt.
The Cavaliers were without the services of third-year guard Dion Waiters, who sat out the game due to the effects of being on the receiving end of a flagrant foul in Friday night’s game against the Denver Nuggets.
The victory evens Cleveland’s record at 3-3, while New Orleans drops to that same mark on the year.
The Cavaliers will next be in action on Friday night when they hit the road to face the Boston Celtics at the TD Garden, with tipoff set for just after 7:30 p.m. That will be the first of a back-to-back weekend that will then see Cleveland host the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday night for another 7:30 matchup.