CLEVELAND — The New Orleans Pelicans came extremely close to beating two teams that could meet in the NBA Finals in back-to-back games.
Unfortunately, their euphoric feeling fell short Monday in a 118-111 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers before 20,562 at Quicken Loans Arena.
Pelicans coach Monty Williams said he realizes just how close his team came to accomplishing something special.
“We didn’t capitalize on that growth that we showed in the San Antonio game (on Saturday),” he said.
“It was still a good trip. This stings a little bit. We had this game in our hands, and it slipped away.”
The Pelicans (3-3) held a 12-point lead late in the third quarter when four-time MVP LeBron James came alive.
He fueled a 16-1 run to close the third quarter, and the Cavaliers (3-3) never trailed thereafter.
James recorded his first triple-double of the season with 32 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. He scored 17 points in the third.
Coming into the game, it was forward Anthony Davis who was the focal point of the Cavaliers’ defensive game plan. He was still his dominating self with 27 points, a game-high 14 rebounds, four steals and three blocks.
“He’s a monster,” Cavaliers forward Kevin Love said.
However, Davis said he was miffed at his team’s defensive effort, especially in the second half when the Cavaliers outscored them 67-55.
“We can’t give up 118 points and expect to beat a team that good,’’ Davis said. “They started getting out in transition for easy baskets. That was the beginning of it all.
“That’s a tough team. They have three guys who can score at will.”
Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson put on a shooting clinic in the first half. He fired in 23 points in the first half, including 21 in a scintillating 11-minute span. The 6-foot-10 forward finished with 32 points. He was 8-of-12 from behind the arc.
“We were moving the ball well,” he said. “We have a lot of different weapons. Our coaches drew up some great plays.”
Anderson helped the Pelicans to open up a 12-point advantage in the second quarter. They secured a 56-51 lead at halftime.
Travel woes caused them to cancel their shootaround in the morning. It didn’t affect them once the game started.
The Cavaliers opened up an 85-79 lead after three quarters. Their final points came on a monster slam dunk by James.
Guard Kyrie Irving had 13 of his 32 points in the third. The Cavaliers took control of the game by outscoring the Pelicans in the third quarter 34-23.
Love added 22 points for the Cavaliers.
The Cavs drained 13-of-27 from behind the arc. Love made 6-of-9, while Irving added 4-of-7.
Guard Jrue Holiday added 16 points and five assists for the Pelicans.
Irving said he’s like brothers with Davis.
“He’s a great friend of mine,” he said. “He’s a future superstar, if not one already. It makes it tough for opposing guards. It’s about being aggressive and not being intimated.”