Cleveland Cavaliers almost pull off inconceivable upset earlier than fading late and falling to New Orleans Pelicans, 116-109


CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Cleveland Cavaliers almost did the improbable Sunday night.

After six players, including three of their usual starters and a full starting slot, Cleveland gave the Zion Williamson-led New Orleans Pelicans all they could before they ran out of gas and lost them late (116-109).

“I was proud of their efforts,” said Cavs coach JB Bickerstaff. “Just the stuff we’re talking about, this crap, the selflessness they’ve been playing with. We had to get off to a really good start and they brought it with them from the start and fought for the entire game. “

The Cavs were the better team for three quarters. They went into the decisive fourth place with two ball owners. But there was too much to overcome:

Heavy legs on the second night of a back to back.

An incomplete – and shortened – rotation, with Darius Garland, Collin Sexton, Larry Nance Jr., Jarrett Allen, Damyean Dotson and Dylan Windler in street clothes watching from the bench.

Foul trouble with the start center Isaiah Hartenstein, who got out at six after logging only 22 minutes in one night. The Cavs couldn’t afford to lose another body.

A missing scorer in crunch time.

And of course Zion, who bullied Cleveland all night and underlined a monstrous performance in the last few seconds with a powerful two-handed dunk.

Williamson was the difference, scoring 38 points, eight of them in the fourth quarter, on 16-of-22 shooting with nine rebounds, four assists and two blocks. Brandon Ingram added 27 points and eight assists.

“Zion is really good,” said Bickerstaff. “In today’s NBA, not one person will be able to protect such a man. I thought in the first half we left Dean (Wade) a little too much on an island. In the second half we started pushing more people. We came up with some charges, some charges that weren’t called that well, but I thought our boys were more supportive of Dean in the second half. “

After an embarrassing loss to the understaffed Toronto Raptors the night before, the Cavs looked motivated and spunky. With crisp ball movements, less dribbling and a share-the-wealth approach, they achieved a season high of 39 points in the first quarter and 68 points in the first half – also their best this season.

Rookie Isaac Okoro had a career night scoring 19 points in the 6-of-10 shooting. Wade also set a career high with 21 points and drilled 5 of 8 from the depths. Matthew Dellavedova, who started in Garland’s place, kept the group organized and distributed 10 assists at field height. Kevin Love, one of the veteran leaders, added 19 points and five rebounds. Even Cedi Osman was back on the rotation, jumping off the bench to score 15 points, the most he has had since Feb. 14.

The Cavs showed the fight, pride and urgency that were lacking on Saturday night. There was no reason to hang your heads after that game – although they faded late, only scored 15 points in the fourth quarter and scored 26-15 points in the final 12 minutes.

“I thought we played well, I thought we moved the ball well. I thought we created open looks for each other, they just didn’t like, ”Bickerstaff said of the fourth quarter fights. “These guys are playing against a team with guns in Zion and Brandon and are difficult to protect. You have to get recordings to keep up with them and I thought we just didn’t get enough recordings tonight. “

Twenty minutes before the tip came a text from one of Cleveland’s coaches. It read: “We will do our best.”

They did. It just wasn’t enough.


With 49.8 seconds in the first quarter, Kevin Love made his third triple of the night, overtaking Mark Price for second place on the all-time 3-pointer list. After dumping on night five, Love raised his total to 805 since moving to Cleveland in 2014.


Cavs has a few days off before heading to Charlotte on Wednesday night to play the Hornets. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

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