CLEVELAND (AP) - Kyrie Irving and LeBron James wouldn’t let another lead get away from the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Irving scored 29 points, James added 27 and Cleveland bounced back from two straight losses with a 99-84 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday night.
Irving and James combined for 17 points in the fourth quarter as the Cavaliers avoided blowing a 15-point lead for the second straight night.
“We need to win every time we play, but coming off those two losses we had to show our mental toughness and understand we have to take care of home floor,” Irving said.
Norris Cole scored a career-high 26 points while Anthony Davis scored 24 points with 11 rebounds for New Orleans, which has lost four straight
The Cavaliers were ahead 54-39 late in the second quarter, but the Pelicans cut the lead to four on several occasions in the second half.
Cleveland led 81-75 midway through the fourth when James hit two fadeaway baseline shots and converted a three-point play while Irving added two jumpers, as the Cavaliers pulled away.
“LeBron made some tough turnarounds, Kyrie made big shots,” Davis said. “The shots they took, we can live with them. They just went in tonight.”
Cleveland held a 15-point lead in the first quarter Friday against Boston, but lost on Avery Bradley’s 3-pointer at the buzzer. After allowing 39 points in the fourth quarter Friday, the Cavaliers held the Pelicans to 14 in the final period.
James thought the improved defense was crucial to the victory.
“It’s always an emphasis,” he said. “We know if we defend it creates so much for us offensively and we did that tonight.”
Cleveland improved to 6-3 since Tyronn Lue replaced David Blatt as head coach on Jan. 22.
Kevin Love was out with a bruised left thigh, but the Cavaliers went ahead early in the game and never gave up the lead despite New Orleans’ strong rally.
“It’s always next man up,” James said. “We needed it all.”
Cole, who was 10 of 19 from the field, scored 14 points in the third to help New Orleans get back in the game. The Pelicans trailed 74-70 going into the fourth.
Irving was 11 of 21 from the field while James made 11 of 20. James’ 3-pointer early in the third broke his 0-for-18 slump from behind the arc.
J.R. Smith scored 20 points, including six 3-pointers. Tristan Thompson was scoreless, but had 15 rebounds in 33 minutes.
Davis shot 13 of 22 and finished with 31 points, 12 rebounds and four steals in New Orleans’ 114-108 overtime win over Cleveland on Dec. 4.
Pelicans G Tyreke Evans (right knee tendinitis) will be held out until after the All-Star break. He has missed six straight games with the injury after undergoing knee surgery in the fall.
A LITTLE LATE
The NBA announced a critical foul call on late in Friday’s loss to Boston was a mistake. Smith was called for a foul on Evan Turner’s layup with 4.9 seconds to play, cutting Cleveland’s lead to two. Turner missed the foul shot but Boston retained possession when the ball went out of bounds and Bradley’s 3-pointer at the buzzer gave the Celtics the win.
“They say it wasn’t a foul, but there’s nothing we can do about it now,” Lue said.
Pelicans: Cole had his number retired by Cleveland State in a ceremony Saturday afternoon. James, who was Cole’s teammate in Miami, and his New Orleans teammates attended the ceremony. “It was a great day,” Cole said. “It was fun to see all the old faces and all the new faces at Cleveland State. That’s my school.” …. New Orleans is 5-20 and 0-7 against Eastern Conference teams on the road.
Cavaliers: Love was injured Friday night. Lue said his status is game-to-game. … Timofey Mozgov started at center with Thompson moving to power forward. …. Matthew Dellavedova (sore left hamstring) missed his third straight game.
Pelicans: Visit Minnesota on Monday.
Cavaliers: Host Sacramento on Monday.
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