Hornets 89, Cavaliers 84
Kyrie Irving hasn't looked like a 19-year-old rookie very often this season.
After making several clutch plays in Cleveland's consecutive one-point wins over Sacramento and Detroit this week, he finally looked his age in Wednesday night's 89-84 loss to New Orleans.
Irving was held to six points, tying his career low that occurred in his first NBA game against Toronto on Dec. 26. He recorded a career-high 11 assists, but shot 2 of 13 from the field.
''It was a rough night,'' Irving admitted. ''It happens. It's part of the game.''
Chris Kaman scored 21 points and New Orleans, which lost to Indiana in overtime on Tuesday, held off a late Cleveland rally. Antawn Jamison led the Cavaliers with 22 points, but they missed a chance to win three straight games for the first time this season.
Rookie Gustavo Ayon had a career-high 19 rebounds for the Hornets.
Irving struggled throughout the game, as did most of the Cavaliers. His jumper with 2:08 to play cut New Orleans' lead to 76-74, but Kaman's dunk and Marco Belinelli's 3-pointer put the Hornets ahead 81-74 with 1:04 remaining.
Cleveland coach Byron Scott thought Irving, who played the entire fourth quarter Tuesday, might have been tired.
''I remember at one point in the fourth quarter Kyrie said, `I just don't have my legs,''' Scott said. ''I don't know if that's fatigue, but we didn't use that as an excuse.''
''I wasn't tired,'' Irving said. ''I just wasn't hitting shots. I think I hit one jump shot.''
New Orleans, which was playing its third road game in three nights, deserves some credit for shutting down Irving.
''Our team defense is great, man,'' guard Greivis Vasquez said. ''He's a great player, but everyone knew what they have to do on defense.''
Belinelli scored 19 points while Jarrett Jack added 16 for New Orleans. Kaman, the subject of trade rumors earlier this month, also grabbed 13 rebounds. The Hornets have won three of five on the road after losing seven straight.
The Hornets came out with more energy in the final game before the All-Star break for both teams. New Orleans led the remainder of the game after taking an 11-9 lead in the first quarter. The Hornets built an 11-point lead late in the period and maintained a comfortable margin until the fourth quarter.
''I don't know that we were the fresher team,'' Kaman said. ''We just fight every night and play hard. We do what we do each game.''
''We've got a little bit of momentum going now,'' Hornets coach Monty Williams said. ''As a coach, you almost want to keep playing because the last 2 1/2 weeks have been eye-opening for our guys.''
Trailing 71-59 early in the final period, Cleveland scored 11 straight points to pull within one. Ramon Sessions scored five points, Alonzo Gee hit a 3-pointer to key the run, and Ryan Hollins' free throw cut the lead to 71-70.
New Orleans went scoreless for more than 4 minutes before Jack's free throw with 6:25 remaining gave the Hornets a three-point lead.
Jack made a jumper and New Orleans hit six free throws in the final minute to secure the win.
The Cavaliers were coming off a pair of dramatic wins that were both sparked by Irving. Cleveland's victory over the Kings on Sunday featured 19 lead changes and was tied 17 times. Irving's two free throws with 0.4 seconds remaining gave Cleveland a 93-92 win. The Cavaliers rallied from a 17-point deficit in the third quarter against the Pistons on Wednesday for a 101-100 win as Irving scored 17 points in the final period.
Irving will compete in the rookie/sophomore game and Skills Challenge during this weekend's All-Star festivities in Orlando.
''It's a dream come true,'' he said. ''I've been watching the All-Star weekend on TV since I was a kid. I'm going to enjoy it.''
Scott was assessed a technical foul in the first quarter for protesting that a foul wasn't called on an offensive possession by the Cavaliers.
The Hornets dropped a 101-93 decision to Oklahoma City on Monday and fell 117-108 in overtime to Indiana on Tuesday. New Orleans had a season-high three-game winning streak going into Monday. The Hornets complete a six-game road trip in Chicago on Feb. 2
NOTES: Williams said C Emeka Okafor (left knee) and F Jason Smith (concussion) could return for the first game following the All-Star break on Feb. 28 at Chicago. There is no timetable for the return of G Eric Gordon (right knee surgery) and F Carl Landry (sprained left knee). ... Cavaliers C Anderson Varejao (broken right wrist) has been doing daily cardiovascular work. The team said he would miss four to six weeks when he was injured on Feb. 11. ... Cleveland G Anthony Parker (back) missed his 12th straight game. He could return for the first game after the All-Star break against Boston on Feb. 28.