Green questions Pelicans’ toughness after 118-107 rout by Cavaliers

Cleveland forward Evan Mobley (4) dunks against New Orleans' Trey Murphy III, left, during the...
Cleveland forward Evan Mobley (4) dunks against New Orleans' Trey Murphy III, left, during the Cavaliers' 118-107 victory Friday night (Feb. 10) at the Smoothie King Center. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)(Matthew Hinton | AP)
Published: Feb. 11, 2023 at 12:40 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Donovan Mitchell and the surging Cavaliers arrived in a city where they hadn’t won in a decade and demonstrated why Cleveland was among just three teams that held off on making any deals at this week’s NBA trade deadline.

Mitchell scored 30 points and Cleveland maintained a double-digit lead most of the way for a 118-107 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night (Feb. 10) that extended the Cavaliers’ winning streak to five games.

“Just a lack of toughness tonight, to be honest,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. “That game is not an example of who we are and who we have been.”

Evan Mobley had 28 points and 13 rebounds, while Jarrett Allen added 20 points and 11 rebounds for Cleveland, which snapped the Pelicans’ three-game winning streak and won in New Orleans for the first time since March 2010.

The Pelicans’ Brandon Ingram scored 25 points, his fourth straight game with at least that many. Trey Murphy III added 17 points and C.J. McCollum 12 for New Orleans.

“We just kept making the right play over and over again,” Mitchell said. “You’re starting to see us get more familiar with each other, get more comfortable and now you’re starting to see what that team looks like and the team we want to be ultimately.

“We believe in ourselves. We believe in what we have.”

Cleveland shot 56.5% (48 of 85), outscored New Orleans 70-58 in the paint and outrebounded the Pelicans, 41-34.

“Offensively we were just completely selfless,” Cleveland coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “It was one of our best games, I believe, in picking apart an opponent by the way they were playing us. We were able to get open layups on the back side, open 3s.”

Cleveland went in front for good in the first quarter and opened up a 22-point, first-half lead.

“Our margin for error is small,” Green said. “We can’t allow teams to get out to leads like that.”

The Cavs led by as many as 25 in the second half and the lead hovered around 20 until the latter stages of the fourth quarter, when most of the starters had gone to the bench for good.

“We love the group that we have,” Bickerstaff said. “We are confident in giving it time and letting guys grow together. We are not in a rush. We have guys that are developing, learning how to win and learning how to play together. There is no reason to skip steps and do something desperate when we are not.”

Mitchell had 21 points in the first half, highlighted by an off-balance scoop off the glass while being fouled from behind by McCollum.

Mitchell’s driving floater gave Cleveland a 73-55 lead late in the second quarter before Ingram’s free throw made it 73-56 at halftime.

Notes: Cleveland came in allowing an NBA-low 106.2 points per game. ... The Pelicans’ Herb Jones scored 11, highlighted by a soaring two-handed dunk in the first half. ... Newly acquired guard Josh Richardson did not arrive in New Orleans in time to play and watched in street clothes. He was acquired from San Antonio in exchange for Devonte’ Graham and four second-round picks on Thursday. ... New Orleans fell to 20-10 at home, in what was their last home game before the All-Star break. ... The Pels are 11-14 vs. Eastern Conference teams, and missed 15 of 24 3-point shots. ... All-Star forward Zion Williamson (right hamstring) missed his 20th straight game. Green said he will also miss New Orleans’ last two games before the All-Star Game, from which Williamson was officially scratched earlier in the day. ... The Pelicans next play Monday night in Oklahoma City.

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