Cleveland should have beaten the Pelicans Tuesday night at Smoothie King Center, but after a great start, which included a 23-point first-quarter lead, the Cavaliers went cold and fell to New Orleans 108-104.
The Pelicans were without their leading scorer Brandon Ingram(Achilles soreness), Nickeil Alexander-Walker(health and safety protocols), and Josh Hart(ankle).
Cleveland got back Evan Mobley and Isaac Okoro(health and safety protocols). However, their leading scorer Darius Garland missed Tuesday’s game due to health and safety protocols, and Cleveland was still without their starting center Jarrett Allen(health and safety protocols).
After winning six straight, Cleveland(20-14) has lost two of three, while New Orleans(13-22) has won three of four.
Here is the Great, the Not So Great, and the Bottom Line of the Cavs’ tough loss to New Orleans:
The Great for the Cavaliers:
-Ricky Rubio got the start in place of Garland, and he did it all. He had a game-high 27 points and a game-high 13 assists to go along with nine rebounds. Sadly, he could not finish the game as he left late with what appeared to be a nasty left leg injury.
-Kevin Love, who got his first start of the season against the Raptors, went back to the bench after Mobley’s return. In the first quarter, Love scored 12 of his 24 points and four of his game-high seven threes. He got Cleveland off to a great start, and he also had a solid ending as he scored 10 points, including three threes in the fourth. This is the tenth straight game that Love has been in double figures.
-Evan Mobley is back and it was like he never left. The rookie, who missed four games due to health and safety protocols, was efficient as he went 9/12 from the field to score 22 points to go along with seven rebounds. This was the first time Mobley has been over 20 points since November 7th.
First Quarter Cavs: Coming into this contest, the Cavs led the league in first-quarter scoring margin, and Cleveland got the start they wanted against the Pelicans. They shot 56% from the field, including 9/12 from downtown(75%). Love and Rubio combined for 22 of the team’s 39 points, and the Cavaliers had their largest lead of 23 points in the first. Cleveland would take a 39-20 lead into the second quarter.
The Not So Great for the Cavaliers:
Three-Point shooting after the first quarter: The Cavaliers were 9/12 from three-point range in the first quarter. After that, they were 5/29 the rest of the way, including 0/10 in the second quarter.
“I thought we got a little stagnant offensively and settled little bit too much for too many threes,” Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said postgame.
2nd-4th quarters: Cleveland had a 19-point lead(39-20) after the first quarter. However, after that, they were outscored in every quarter and were outscored 88-65 the rest of the way, including by 11 in the fourth.
Fourth Quarter: Cleveland led 83-76 heading into the fourth, but things unraveled in the final quarter. The Cavaliers were outscored 32-21 in the fourth as they went cold. Cleveland shot 30% from the field, including 3/12 from downtown. The Cavs took a 95-83 lead at the 07:59 mark of the fourth, but the Pelicans went on a 16-2 run to take the lead for good at 99-97.
Ricky Rubio’s injury: Rubio’s injury did not look good, and he did not put any pressure on the leg. Unfortunately, it seems like he could be gone for an extended period of time, if not the rest of the season.
This was a devastating loss in more ways than one. First, you blow a 23-point lead to a depleted team, and next, you lose one of the MVPs of your squad in Rubio. If the season derails, we will look back at this game. The team was clearly dejected after the game, including Love, who spent time with Rubio in Minnesota:
“I really care for him,” Love said. “I’m just praying that he’s going to be OK. We don’t know what the near future is going to hold for him. We’re just completely gutted. He was having such a great season.”
Rubio is expected to get an MRI Wednesday.
Cleveland concludes their two-game road trip in Washington against the Wizards Thursday night.
Best of the Rest:
-Herbert Jones led the Pelicans with 26 points; Devonte’ Graham added 18 points, five rebounds, and five assists, and Jonas Valanciunas had 15 points and 10 rebounds as all five starters scored in double figures.
-Lauri Markkanen added 14 points and five rebounds, and Isaac Okoro, who made his return after missing three games due to health and safety protocols, had six points.