Although the Cleveland Cavaliers struggled to distribute the ball during a disjointed start, coach David Blatt is expecting progress after a breakthrough effort in that facet.
Sharing the basketball will likely be even more important when facing rising New Orleans star Anthony Davis and his shot-blocking 7-foot-5 wingspan.
LeBron James and the Cavaliers look to keep making strides and seek their first home win Monday night against Davis and a Pelicans team looking to build on a win over the NBA’s defending champions.
Cleveland (2-3) has yet to find a sense of cohesion in James’ return to Ohio, ranking near the bottom of the league with a 1.12 assist-to-turnover ratio during a 1-3 start.
The four-time MVP shot down reports that he and point guard Kyrie Irving got into a heated disagreement after Tuesday’s blowout loss at Portland. The Cavaliers then tied a franchise record with only six assists while committing 12 turnovers the next night in a last-second defeat at Utah.
"We’re simply trying to get on the same page," James said. "We’re two dynamic players and it’s coming along well, I believe."
That appeared to be the case Friday, when James and Irving split up the point guard duties in a 110-101 win at Denver. James finished with a season-high 11 assists and Irving had six after totaling eight in his previous three games.
Overall, the Cavaliers had a season-high 25 assists and a season-low nine turnovers.
"We’re going to get better at (sharing the ball) as we begin to use our offense more properly and as we begin to recognize the benefit of not holding the ball," Blatt said.
James’ teams have gone 109-24 over his 12-year career when he has at least 10 assists, including twice – both wins – over 23 career games versus New Orleans (3-2). He’s averaged 31.0 points in his last three against the Pelicans.
Cleveland needs to continue its improved ball movement against the Pelicans (3-2), who forced a season-high 19 turnovers in Saturday’s 100-99 win at San Antonio. They’ve been one of the league’s top defensive clubs, allowing 95.2 points per game.
Davis has been a force in the middle with an NBA-leading 4.4 blocks per game. He’s also one of the league’s leaders with averages of 24.4 points and 12.8 rebounds.
The All-Star power forward scored the winner on a driving layup with 6.6 seconds left against the Spurs and finished with 27 points, 11 boards, six blocks and four steals.
"It’s a big win for us, but we have to get ready for practice and try to go to Cleveland and get another one," Davis said.
The Pelicans have won three straight and six of seven against the Cavs, but all those games came while James was with Miami and Kevin Love with Minnesota. Davis had 30 points and eight blocks in a 100-89 win in the most recent meeting in Cleveland on Jan. 28.
New Orleans ranks among the NBA’s leaders with 48.4 paint points per game, while Cleveland has given up season highs of 46 in each of its last two. The Cavaliers also have allowed a 49.0 defensive field-goal percentage – one of the league’s highest marks.
Despite battling a hamstring injury, Pelicans guard Tyreke Evans is averaging 17.8 points while hitting 9 of 19 from 3-point range to go with 7.8 rebounds and 5.8 assists.
Love continues trying to establish himself in his first season with Cleveland, but has totaled 56 points and 33 boards in his last two against New Orleans.