The New Orleans Pelicans hope that their long road trip ends better than the Cleveland Cavaliers’ lengthy excursion ended.
The Pelicans will try to finish their longest road trip of the season with a winning record Monday when they visit the Cavaliers, who finished 2-3 on their trip after a 110-102 loss at Minnesota on Saturday.
That completed a 10-day trip that featured games in five cities and three time zones.
“I just think we had too many mental lapses,” Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “From top to bottom we didn’t play well enough to win. The Timberwolves outplayed us. I think it’s that simple.”
Cleveland had a 14-point lead early in the third quarter and took a three-point lead into the fourth quarter, but got outscored 33-22 in the final period.
“Giving up 33 points in the fourth quarter, our defense wasn’t at its usual,” Bickerstaff said.
Donovan Mitchell missed shootaround Saturday morning because of illness and went on to score just 14 points, shooting 5 of 16 from the floor, including 2 of 9 on 3-pointers. The Cavaliers committed 18 turnovers, which the Wolves turned into 28 points.
“We built a lead and stopped doing the things that were right and the things that helped us build a lead,” Bickerstaff said. “We allowed them to get back in the game by turning the ball over and taking tough, forced shots instead of taking what was there.”
New Orleans’ 10-day road trip started with a loss at Dallas, followed by a win at Washington, a loss at Boston and a win at Detroit, 116-110 on Friday night.
The Pelicans defeated the Pistons despite the absence of three starters. Brandon Ingram hasn’t played since Nov. 25 because of a bruised toe, Zion Williamson has been out for two weeks because of a strained hamstring and Herbert Jones Jr. injured his back earlier in the trip.
On Friday, 7-foot center Jonas Valanciunas took advantage of a Pistons team that was short-handed in the frontcourt and finished with 33 points on 12-of-15 shooting and 16 rebounds.
“J.V. had a monster game,” New Orleans coach Willie Green said. “He just dominated in the post. He dominated the boards. We needed every single point and rebound from him. Just a good road win for us.”
Valanciunas scored 13 points in the first quarter and New Orleans went on a 14-0 run midway through the second quarter to take a nine-point halftime lead.
Detroit got within three points with 3:27 left in the contest and Valanciunas made baskets from the low post on New Orleans’ next two possessions.
“That’s J.V.,” guard Trey Murphy III said. “Bottom line — they didn’t have a matchup for him. They either had to double or it was going to be a bucket from J.V.”
Valanciunas had 12 points in the fourth quarter, including two free throws that gave the Pelicans a six-point lead with 22.5 seconds remaining.
“He was great for us,” said guard CJ McCollum, who added 19 points. “He established his presence early, got us in the bonus, rebounded, and put them in rotation a lot early.”
–Field Level Media