After winning two games without Darius Garland or Evan Mobley, the Cleveland Cavaliers fell to the New Orleans Pelicans 123-104 on the second night of a back-to-back at home.
Donovan Mitchell was unavailable for both games in the back-to-back due to an illness, but the Cavaliers managed to withstand the Utah Jazz before falling short to the Pelicans. While Cleveland's inconsistency has been their most telling flaw this season, the Cavs have continually shown determination and a next-man-up mentality. It was no different hosting New Orleans.
The Cavaliers went down fighting
When healthy, the Cavaliers' typical rotation rarely goes beyond the eighth man. Instead, twelve players were called upon, including all three of Cleveland's two-way contracts of Craig Porter, Jr., Isaiah Mobley and Emoni Bates. Porter started for the second consecutive game, taking Garland's place as the primary facilitator with 11 assists and only two turnovers.
Against the Jazz, the Cavs were clearly underperforming without any star power to lead the way. Adding in the component of less than one full day of rest before their next game, the Pelicans entered Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse with the least prepared Cavaliers of the season. A team total of 11 turnovers and 13 fouls gave New Orleans 24 fast break points and 16 free throw attempts compared to Cleveland's 15 fast break points and 8 free throws.
Though the final 19-point deficit left the Cavaliers far from a late-game comeback opportunity, they were far from an unwatchable team. Knowing they were without Mitchell's gravity when driving into the lane, the Cavs played a heavily perimeter-centric offense, launching 44 total 3-point attempts, a number only eclipsed by the previous night's 51 long-range shots this season.