The Great, Not So Great, & Bottom Line of Cavs’ win over Pelicans

Cleveland returned home on Monday night to face the New Orleans Pelicans after a 2-3 west coast road trip.

The Cavs(28-17), who got off to a slow start, trailed by as many as 13 points in the first half. However, Cleveland finally woke up in the second half and defeated the Pelicans(26-18) 113-103 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

Donovan Mitchell left in the third quarter with a groin injury and did not return.

Here’s the Great, Not So Great, and the Bottom Line of the Cavs’ win over the Pelicans.

Great:

Darius Garland scored 25 of his game-high 30 points in the second half. In addition, he added 11 assists. Garland got off to a slow start, but he was big in the second half, especially the fourth, where he scored 14 points.

Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley: Allen(9/12) had a season-high tying 24 points, 11 rebounds, and five assists, while Mobley(8/10) had 19 points and eight rebounds. The two were a combined 17/22 from the field, and Allen was big in the fourth as he had 12 points.

Fourth Quarter: The Cavs played their best ball in the final stanza. Garland and Allen combined for 26 of the team’s 35 points in the quarter. From the end of the third into the fourth, Cleveland went on a 15-0 run and never relinquished the lead.

The Cavs outscored the Pelicans 35-22 in the fourth. 

Not So Great:

Cleveland’s turnovers were high(15), and the first half wasn’t the best, but they still got the job done.

Bottom Line:

Cleveland got off to a slow start; maybe it was because it was an afternoon game, but credit them for bouncing back in the second half as they continue to be dominant at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. Mitchell did leave with a groin injury, and hopefully, that’s nothing serious.

What’s Next:

Cleveland travels to Memphis to battle the Grizzlies on Wednesday night. 

Best of the Rest:

-C.J. McCollum led the Pelicans with 25 points; Jonas Valanciunas had 22 points and 13 rebounds.

-Donovan Mitchell and Isaac Okoro had 11 points apiece.

-Cleveland is now 19-4 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

-According to Cavs Notes, this was Cleveland’s 11th win this season after trailing by at least 10 points.

Embiid, Williamson named NBA Players of the Week

Pelicans forward Zion Williamson and 76ers center Joel Embiid were named Western and Eastern Players of the Week for games played December 5-11, the league announced Monday.

Embiid tallied at least 35 points in all three contests throughout the week, extending his streak to an NBA-best four straight games.

In three games played, including a pair of home victories against the Lakers (Dec. 9) and Hornets (Dec. 11), Embiid produced a league-best 43.3 points on .639 shooting, 10.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.0 steals, and 1.0 blocks. He became the 10th player in league history to average 43.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, and a shooting mark of at least 60-percent over a three-game span.

Embiid capped off his week with a 53-point, 12-rebound performance against Charlotte, making him the only player in the NBA this season with multiple games of 50-plus point.

The only 76er with more Eastern Conference Player of the Week Awards than Embiid is Hall of Famer Allen Iverson, who captured the honor 20 times during his time with Philadelphia.

Back to Williamson, he led New Orleans to a 3-0 week, recording averages of 33.0 points (second among Western Conference players), 8.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.0 steals in 37.3 minutes per contest, while shooting 70.4 percent from the field (first in the NBA among players that registered 13.0 or more field goal attempts per game). Williamson finished the week as one of two players in the West to average at least 30 points per game and the only Western Conference player to average at least 30 points and eight rebounds. Williamson also averaged an NBA-best 24.0 points in the paint per game during this stretch.

Williamson’s Player of the Week honor is the first of his career.

Currently, New Orleans(18-8) has the best record in the Western Conference.

 

Pels’ Ingram suffers concussion against Jazz

The New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram sustained a concussion against the Jazz on Sunday, the team announced Monday. 

Ingram has been placed in the NBA’s concussion protocol.

The injury occurred during the first quarter when Ingram’s teammate Naji Marshall inadvertently hit Ingram in the face after the two went for the ball.

Per the NBA’s Concussion Policy, Ingram must go through the return-to-participation process, which can begin no earlier than 24 hours from the time of injury. The return-to-participation process includes a series of steps designed to ensure an athlete exhibits symptom-free behavior before resuming full basketball activities. There is no timeframe to complete the process, as each injury and player is different, and recovery time can vary in each case.

New Orleans, who also lost Zion Williamson(hip) in Sunday’s loss to Utah, returns to action Tuesday night at home against the Mavericks.

Pelicans’ Liddell out indefinitely with torn ACL

The New Orleans Pelicans forward E.J. Liddell will be out indefinitely after suffering a torn ACL in his right knee, the team announced Tuesday.

According to the team, an MRI done Monday night confirmed the injury. A date for surgery has not yet been determined, and further updates will be provided appropriately.

The injury occurred during the third quarter of Monday’s Summer League game against the Atlanta Hawks. 

New Orleans selected Liddell with the 41st overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.

The 6-7 Liddell is coming off a junior campaign at The Ohio State University in which he averaged 19.4 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 2.5 blocks per game en route to consensus third-team All-American first team All-Big Ten, and Big Ten All-Defensive honors. Liddell led the Buckeyes in scoring, rebounding, blocks, free throws made and attempted, and was second in assists.

Great news for Zion Williamson, Pelicans

On Thursday, the New Orleans Pelicans announced that recent imaging of Zion Williamson’s right fifth metatarsal showed continued improvement. Williamson has been cleared in his return to play progression without any restrictions.

It’s been a long road for Williamson. The third-year forward did not play a game this season after recovering from foot surgery in the offseason.

In November, Williamson was cleared to participate in contact drills, beginning with 1-on-1 workouts and progressively working towards full-team workouts.

However, a month later, Williamson had a setback as he needed a biologic injection into the fracture site to stimulate bone healing in his right foot.

In January, the team announced that Williamson would be continuing his rehab away from the team.

New Orleans had a successful season as they made the playoffs and pushed the Suns to six games in their first-round series.

Williamson is eligible for a max extension, which he said he would be interested in signing. However, he’s played only 85 games in three seasons, so it should be interesting to see what happens next.

Suns’ Paul on win over Pelicans: ‘We knew it was going to be by committee’

If he did it before, he could do it again, and the “Point God” continued his fourth-quarter greatness in the Suns’ first-round series against the Pelicans.

As he did in Game 1, Paul scored 19 points of his 28 points in the fourth quarter as the Suns, who were without Devin Booker(hamstring), defeated the Pelicans 114-111 at Smoothie King Center to take a 2-1 series lead.

Paul finished with 28 points, four rebounds, 14 assists, and zero turnovers. Deandre Ayton added a career-high 28 points to go along with 17 rebounds. Ayton scored 28 points in three quarters, but he was scoreless in the fourth.

However, Paul brought it home.

“DA kept us in this game in order to bring it home down the stretch,” Paul said after the win.

In Game 1, Paul had 19 of his 30 points in the fourth. They needed his greatness in Game 1, and without Booker, they needed it even more in Game 3.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, Paul is the second player to score 19-plus points in the fourth quarter twice in a single series over the last 25 postseasons. In addition, according to Stathead, Paul became the first player since 1984 to have 28-plus points and 14-plus assists without a turnover.

“He(Paul) reads a play, and the defense will switch, and he’s always analyzing,” JaVale McGee, who also came up big and added 15 points, said. “He’s listening to calls that other players are calling.”

Phoenix had five players in double figures, so they won it as a team.

“We knew it was going to be by committee,” Paul said. “When you come into this arena, we knew it would be tough, but everybody just pitched in tonight.”

At this point, according to reports, Booker could be out 2-3 weeks, so Phoenix needs to get by the Pelicans as soon as possible, but as Paul said, the Suns have to do it by committee. 

Game 4 is Sunday night in New Orleans.

Pelicans give update on Zion Williamson

The New Orleans Pelicans got some decent news about Zion Williamson.

Recent imaging showed improved bone healing of the fifth metatarsal in Zion Williamson’s right foot. He will gradually progress to full weight-bearing exercise and basketball activities, the team announced Wednesday.

According to the Pelicans, Williamson remains out indefinitely.

The third-year forward has not played a game this season after recovering from foot surgery in the offseason.

In January, the team announced that Williamson would be continuing his rehab away from the team.

In November, Williamson was cleared to participate in contact drills, beginning with 1-on-1 workouts and progressively working towards full-team workouts. However, a month later, Williamson had a setback as he needed a biologic injection into the fracture site to stimulate bone healing in his right foot.

New Orleans(25-36) is currently the 10th-seed in the West and would be in the play-in tournament if the season ended today.

Pelicans acquire CJ McCollum from Blazers in a seven-player deal

The NBA trade season is upon us, and on Wednesday, the Pelicans and Blazers made a big deal. Portland sent CJ McCollum, Larry Nance Jr., and Tony Snell to New Orleans for Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Josh Hart, Didi Louzada, Tomáš Satoranský, a protected 2022 first-round draft pick, and two future second-round draft picks.

The 30-year-old McCollum, who is the deal’s centerpiece, has appeared in 36 games for Portland this season, averaging 20.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 4.5 assists. With the addition of McCollum, the Pelicans are looking to form a solid trio with Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram. 

Portland has been busy in the last couple of weeks as they traded Norman Powell and Robert Covington in exchange for Eric Bledsoe, Justise Winslow, Keon Johnson, and the Pistons 2025 second-round pick.

For the Blazers, it appears that a retooling is going on. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Blazers will have around $60 million in cap space this summer to build a better roster around six-time All-Star Damian Lillard. Plus, Portland got some decent draft assets in this deal, which could improve the talent on this roster. 

Besides McCollum, the Pelicans added the following:

Nance Jr., 29, has appeared in 37 games (11 starts) for Portland this season, averaging 6.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 2.0 assists in 23.2 minutes per game. 

This season, Snell, 30, has appeared in 38 games (10 starts) for Portland, averaging 2.6 points and 1.9 rebounds in 14.4 minutes per game.

For the Blazers, they added the following:

Alexander-Walker, 23, has appeared in 50 games (19 starts) for the Pelicans this season, averaging 12.8 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 2.3 assists in 26.3 minutes per game. 

The 29-year-old Hart appeared in 41 games (40 starts) for New Orleans this season, averaging 13.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 4.1 assists in 33.5 minutes per game.

Louzada, 22, appeared in five games off the bench for the Pelicans over the last two seasons, averaging 1.6 points and 1.0 rebounds in 12.6 minutes per game.

The 30-year-old Satoranský is averaging 2.8 points, 2.0 rebounds, and 2.4 assists.

The NBA trade deadline is February 10 at 3 P.M.

Cavs’ Love on Rubio’s injury: ‘We’re just completely gutted’

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. 

Bottom Line:

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.

What’s Next:

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.

Watch below as Love reacts to Rubio’s injury:

Pelicans’ Williamson suffers setback

Zion Williamson’s return to the court will have to wait a little longer.

According to the Pelicans, Williamson had persistent soreness in his right foot, and an MRI showed a regression in the bone healing of his fifth metatarsal. As a result, the volume and intensity of his training will be reduced for an extended period to help allow for further bone healing. 

Williamson, 21, has not played a game this season after undergoing foot surgery in the offseason. In late November, New Orleans announced that Williamson was cleared for full-team activities.

At this point, it might be in the best interest of the Pelicans, who are at the bottom of the West, to take their time putting him back on the court.