The Cleveland Cavaliers added several new faces in the offseason and are having a little trouble getting on the same page early in 2017-18. The Cavaliers will try to bounce back from a loss to the Brooklyn Nets when they visit the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday.
Cleveland returned J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson to the starting lineup on Wednesday to spark the defense, but the Nets still ended up knocking down 17 3-pointers while beating the Cavaliers 112-107. “These guys are NBA players,” Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue told reporters. “If we don’t contest shots and get out to the 3-point line, they’re going to continue to make them. We come into the game, we told them they’re second in the league in attempts and they’re getting them up. We’re running around here worrying about getting the Brooklyn (draft) pick (in 2018); they might want our pick.” The Cavaliers can count on a defensive test from Pelicans center DeMarcus Cousins, who dominated his former team on Thursday with 41 points and 23 rebounds in a 114-106 win at Sacramento. Cousins buried 3-of-5 from beyond the arc and New Orleans knocked down 13 3-pointers despite missing star forward Anthony Davis (knee, quad).
TV: 7 p.m. ET, FS Ohio (Cleveland), FS New Orleans
ABOUT THE CAVALIERS (3-2): LeBron James served as the point guard on Wednesday with Derrick Rose (ankle) and Dwyane Wade (knee) out of the lineup and ended up with 29 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds. The superstar forward handled the point in each of the last two games - handing out 13 assists in each - but the team doesn’t plan to have him there permanently. “It’s a lot of pressure to put on LeBron to have to handle the ball for 40 minutes,” Lue told reporters. “That’s why I talk about playing the point guard position, it can wear you down. Unfortunately, that’s all we have right now until D-Rose gets back.”
ABOUT THE PELICANS (2-3): Davis remains day-to-day, but Cousins is showing he is ready to pick up the slack after dealing with the boos from Sacramento fans and thriving while shooting 14-of-25 from the field in 44 minutes. “It was a special night,” Cousins told reporters. “The fans were beautiful. They were into the game. They let it be well-known that they hated every shot I made. Now I know how other players feel (when they visit Sacramento). I used to be on the other side of the fence. I can remember games where the crowd was the reason we won. It’s well-known that the Kings have incredible fans.” Cousins recorded a double-double in each of the first five games and is averaging 33 points and 14.2 rebounds.
1. Cavaliers PF Kevin Love recorded a double-double in four of the first five games and is averaging 11.2 rebounds.
2. Pelicans PG Jameer Nelson is averaging 11 points and 4.3 assists in three games off the bench since signing with the team.
3. The teams split two meetings last season, with New Orleans pulling out a 124-122 victory at home on Jan. 23.
PREDICTION: Cavaliers 111, Pelicans 102