How the Cleveland Cavaliers' bench will lift them to a win against Pelicans

New Orleans Pelicans v Cleveland Cavaliers
New Orleans Pelicans v Cleveland Cavaliers / Jason Miller/GettyImages

The Cleveland Cavaliers fell to the Phoenix Suns in a 117-111 loss at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse on Monday. Phoenix forward Kevin Durant and the Suns' guard duo Bradley Beal and Devin Booker combined for 88 points in the Suns victory, hitting 35 of their 67 shot attempts in what would be their 38th win of the season. Cavs guard Darius Garland led the squad with 30 points, while center Jarrett Allen notched yet another double-double in 38 minutes of play.

Cleveland must find its footing as it heads into the home stretch of the 2023-24 NBA regular season.

17 games separate the Cavs from another potential run in the NBA playoffs. Of their remaining games, 11 will be on the road, including matchups against the Suns, Los Angeles Lakers and LA Clippers in April. Cleveland is 19-11 on the road this season, but is 2-3 in its last five road matchups. The Cavs are 1-1 on the road in the month of March, claiming an away victory over the Detroit Pistons to start the month before falling to the Atlanta Hawks five days later.

Cleveland will begin a three-game road trip when it faces the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday. The Cavs will look to even the regular-season series at 1-1 after a 123-104 home loss to New Orleans in December. Cleveland defeated the Pelicans by a margin of 10 points or more in both of its matchups during its 2022-23 campaign.

How the Cavaliers compare to the Pelicans

The Pelicans have won four of their last five matchups on their way to a 39-25 record, putting them three wins away from matching their 42-win total from last season. Their 4-0 start to the month of March was aided by their ability to average 121.8 points per game thus far this month. The figure put them ahead of the Lakers, Indiana Pacers and Sacramento Kings for third place in the NBA in the same span.

So far, the Cavs have earned a 6-1 against teams from the Southwest Division and a 14-7 record against Western Conference opponents this season. They went undefeated against the Southwest Division during the month of February, including a narrow 121-119 win over the Dallas Mavericks that saw Cavs forward Max Strus hit a miracle half-court shot at the final buzzer.

The Pelicans' bench has averaged 54.8 points and 21.3 rebounds per game over its last four matchups, enough to lead the league in both categories over the same stretch of games. Forward Trey Murphy III led New Orleans with 28 points off the bench as the Pelicans defeated the Hawks in State Farm Arena on Sunday.

It will take the help of Cleveland's options off the bench to push past a New Orleans squad looking to keep its win streak alive as it plays its next three games on its home court.

Guard Craig Porter Jr., center Damian Jones, forward Isaiah Mobley and guard Sam Merrill all saw time off the bench for the Cavs during their loss to the Suns. Porter Jr., whose two-way deal was converted into a multi-year contract last month, added 13 points and six rebounds in 22 minutes of play off the bench. The former Wichita State guard has played in 16.6 minutes per game for the Cavs over the last three games, earning averages of 8.7 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists per contest.

Guard Caris LeVert, who the Cavs brought back on a multi-year deal during the offseason, must continue to be a playmaking option for Cleveland for it to remain competitive in the Eastern Conference. He has averaged 7.6 assists per game over his last five games. LeVert dished a team-leading 11 assists during Cleveland's loss to Phoenix, marking the third time the former Brooklyn Nets and Indiana Pacers guard has recorded 10 or more assists this season.

"He just makes everybody's job easier. And he's so unselfish. That's what I love about Caris. He has an attack mindset, but it's not attack just for him. He attacks to look and find his teammates. I thought he did a great job of that tonight."

Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff

Bickerstaff praised LeVert's selfless and dynamic playstyle after a 17-point, 11-assist double-double against the Suns. While LeVert's efficiency has dropped this season, he has found numerous other avenues to impact the Cavs as their sixth man.

The Cavaliers will tip off against the Pelicans at 8 p.m. EDT on Wednesday in the Smoothie King Center. The game will be broadcast on Bally Sports Ohio.

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