From jumping out to a quick lead to dead-cold frustration to an almost magical fourth quarter run, the Cavs overtime loss — 108-114 — to the Pelicans was probably their most exciting game of the year. It wasn’t that way for the middle of the game, as the Cavs tumbled down a slope of sloppy basketball, but the last seven or so minutes of the game epitomized how a good team can quickly flip a switch. LeBron led the Cavs with 37 points (23 in the fourth), 8 assists and 7 rebounds. Anthony Davis had 31 points and 12 rebounds for the Pelicans.
To open the first, JR hit three threes in a row. When JR gets off to that sort of start, he usually walks a thin line between hot-handed heat checks and irrational confidence, but, in the first quarter it worked out well for him, as he knocked down five out of seven threes in the first quarter, which ended with a 27-21 Cavs lead.
The Cavs spent a lot of the second quarter trying to establish Kevin Love’s offensive game on the block, looking to work him closer to the basket, allowing him to use his footwork and that slick jump hook to establish a rhythm, something they have been focusing on a lot more this year in certain contexts. He finished the quarter with 12 points, but, the Pelicans spent the second battling back, making some stops, hitting some low-percentage twos and finishing some athletic drives. Anthony Davis rolled his ankle on Mozgov’s foot and went to the locker room in the middle of the quarter, but returned within a few minutes and the Pelicans used their new-found confidence to push in transition and take a slim lead late in the quarter, although LeBron’s last-possession feed to Love in the post allowed Cleveland to walk into the half with a one-point lead — 53-52.
The last half of that quarter was, for the most part, frustrating for the Cavs, not because they were necessarily being dominated — the two teams were more or less trading haymakers — but they lost control of the pace of the game, and New Orleans was giving them a dose of their own medicine, getting lighting-quick buckets and making Cleveland’s defense look silly for being out of position.
Throughout the entirety of the third quarter, the Pelicans seemed to be hitting everything — floaters with hands in their faces, long threes, etc. With 3:18 to go in the third, New Orleans went on a 20-6 run in six minutes and change. Eric Gordon hasn’t been efficient this season, but at the end of the third, he was shooting 7-9 from the field and 4-5 from three. The Pelicans led 84-77.
The fourth quarter started out as a disaster, as the Cavs looked completely out of synch and New Orleans was red hot. But, after an 11-2 Cavs run (in 2:25) with 4:02 left, the score was cut to 92-96. LeBron, for his missteps and subpar play in the first three quarters of the game, was brilliant in the fourth, slashing and hitting everything with a mix of power and finesse, dropping 23 in the quarter. He completely flipped the switch and it was one of the biggest late-game turnarounds that I’ve ever seen from a player. And, after a series of great stops and clutch shots, the Cavs took what seemed to be a decently safe lead ... but with 8 seconds left — score 103-105, Cavs — Jrue Holiday hit a drop-step three to send it into OT.
With three minutes left in OT, Davis hit a mismatch jump hook against JR to pull ahead to 106-111. The Cavs tried to reintegrate Love back into the game, but couldn’t get much going in OT, and nothing ended up materializing for Cleveland, as the game ended 108-114.