Cavaliers, Pelicans both attempting to bounce back (Jan 23, 2017)
NEW ORLEANS -- The Cleveland Cavaliers are coming off a difficult overtime loss. The New Orleans Pelicans are coming off an absolute stinker.
Despite sitting atop the Eastern Conference, the defending world champion Cavaliers (30-12) have looked like anything but world beaters in losing five of their last nine games, including a 118-115 home loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday night in which two players forgot to run the correct inbounds play after a timeout in the waning seconds.
The Pelicans (17-27), who had shown some signs of life in the last two weeks, prompted coach Alvin Gentry to launch a tirade after a humbling 143-114 home loss to the woeful Brooklyn Nets, the team with the NBA's worst record, on Friday night.
With challenging home games Monday night against the Cavaliers, Wednesday against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Friday against the Spurs, the Pelicans realize how bad their loss to the Nets was for their confidence and for their hopes for the eighth playoff spot in the West.
"I thought we were playing good," Gentry said Sunday after practice. "I thought we were kind of getting it offensively, as far as moving the ball, and so it was a real, real tough setback. Realistically, when you step away after a couple of days, you understand that was one of those games that you have. I think all the teams in the league can go through that."
After the game, Gentry was anything but genteel. He blasted his players' effort and his coaching staff for failing to get the Pelicans ready to play against the Nets.
"Everything (stunk)," Gentry said after the game. "The effort that we played with (stunk), the coaching (stunk). The ball movement, everything about it was horrendous. ... They kicked our (butt)."
New Orleans forward Solomon Hill agreed.
"I think it was the worst loss of my career, by far," Hill said. "You're not looking at Brooklyn to be an offensive juggernaut. They were out there playing like they were the Houston Rockets."
Pelicans All-Star forward Anthony Davis, who is averaging 28.6 points, 12.0 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game, sat out much of the second half with a deep thigh bruise. Davis did not practice Sunday, but Gentry expects him to be ready for the Cavaliers.
"I think so," Gentry said. "This is one of those things that's just nagging more than anything. I guess the layman's term would be a charley horse. It is just soreness more than anything. I think he'll be fine."
Davis said he expects to play but added that the Pelicans can't afford to take games off.
"We've got to do a better job of coming out and playing more desperate," Davis said. "Sometimes we come out and just think we're going to get a win instead of going out there and taking the win. When you end up in a predicament like we are, you have to take wins."
Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said he wasn't sure if LeBron James and Kyrie Irving would play after logging 45 and 41 minutes, respectively, against the Spurs. James scored 29 points with six rebounds, seven assists and two steals, and the 45 minutes represented his second-highest total of the season.
"We've got to see how they feel," Lue said.
The Cavaliers defeated New Orleans 90-82 at home on Jan. 2, scoring the first eight points of the fourth quarter and holding the Pelicans to 13 fourth-quarter points. Irving did not play in that game and Kevin Love was not at full speed after battling the stomach flu.
Davis led New Orleans with 20 points and 17 rebounds, but he missed all five of his shots in the fourth quarter.
James said the Cavaliers can't afford to hurt themselves with late-game breakdowns. He was credited with a turnover on the crucial inbounds play in overtime, but Irving and center Tristan Thompson failed to execute the designed call.
"It's no excuse," James said. "It's a crucial part of the game. We've got to be able to execute. We come out of a timeout. We just sat down and were able to catch our breath. As a ball club trying to win a championship, we' can't go from a timeout, go on the court and forget what we're supposed to do. It's that simple."