Cavaliers and fans pay tribute to Kobe, fall to Pelicans 125-111
BY STONE LEXINGTON
CAVALIERS BEAT WRITER
(CLEVELAND, OH) - The atmosphere didn’t feel jovial entering Tuesday night’s game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and New Orleans Pelicans. How could it?
Pelicans superstar and No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson was playing his first NBA road game, while the Cavs were coming off an impressive road win in Detroit against the Pistons the night before. But despite the hype surrounding Williamson and his first meeting with the Cavs’ young core of talent, sorrow still lurked in the minds of many in attendance at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on Tuesday.
Two days prior, the basketball world lost one of its global icons, former Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant. The beloved future Hall of Famer was killed along with eight other people in a helicopter crash on Sunday, sending fans, friends and family into deep mourning.
Outside of The Fieldhouse off the shores of Lake Erie, digital signs honored Bryant, and the building lit up in purple and gold after his passing. Just before Tuesday’s tip off, the Cavaliers honored Bryant with a 24.8-second moment of silence, commemorating the No.’s 24 and 8 he wore during his career. The crowd, which seemed to have no less than dozens of Bryant Lakers jerseys in attendance, chanted “Kobe, Kobe, Kobe,” afterwards.
Then, it was time for tipoff. After winning the tip, the Pelicans accepted and eight-second violation, and the Cavs followed with a 24-second shot clock violation to a standing ovation and more chants of “Kobe.” The game was underway and just like Bryant opened countless contests on the hardwood, plenty of scoring soon came.
The Cavs gave up points in bunches to the Pelicans in the first quarter, allowing the most points in a first quarter to any team this season. Cleveland trailed 40-34 when the first quarter ended, but did enough scoring to momentarily keep themselves in the contest. New Orleans began to pull away in the second quarter, taking a 74-65 lead into halftime, but the game truly got out of hand in the third quarter.
By the time Pelicans center Derrick Favors converted a layup plus a free throw from a corresponding foul with 4:55 to play in the third, New Orleans had taken its largest lead of the evening at 97-75. The rest of the way, Cleveland only came within single digits for a few seconds in fourth quarter en route to a 125-111 loss to the up-and-coming Pels.
“A lot of credit to New Orleans, they’re a very talented team,” Cavs head coach John Beilein said. “Zion’s a really good player, he’s going to be a great NBA player and probably a star, but Alvin Gentry knows how to coach and he’s got some great pieces around him.”
The Cavs were without rookie point guard Darius Garland, who sat out the contest to rest. Dante Exum started in his place, but finished with just four points and a rebound in 18 minutes.
Larry Nance, who wore the No. 24 in the first half to honor Bryant, recorded his seventh double-double of the season with 17 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists.
Cavs second-year shooting guard Collin Sexton led Cleveland with 24 points, three rebounds and four assists. Second-year shooting guard Kevin Porter Jr. chipped-in 21 points, while Kevin Love added 12 points, six rebounds and three assists.
“They’ve got two young guards that’s really trying to learn everything that they’re trying to do,” Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry said about the 13-35 Cavaliers. “They’re in a brand new system and everything, but they play extremely hard…Sometimes you can’t look at a team’s record and it tells the whole story.”
While Williamson gets most of the headlines for New Orleans, veteran Jrue Holiday and young star Brandon Ingram were the catalysts against Cleveland. Holiday finished with 28 points and eight assists, while Ingram was virtually unstoppable with 24 points (9-of-11 shooting) and six assists.
Williamson totaled 14 points and nine rebounds in 30 minutes.
“He just has the it factor, I think,” Gentry said of Williamson. “He’s all about the team. He’s going to play hard.
“He’s going to do things that help other guys become better. He’s a good, good guy that teams comes first, and I think that anytime that you have that attitude of team first and you put him out there, he’s going to help guys become better.”
Just like Bryant, Williamson has already become one of the most popular figures in the league. Gentry expounded on what the rookie phenom experiences daily.
“He’s a very mature guy for his age,” Gentry said. “For a 19-year-old, he’s extremely mature. I think one of the things he’s going to have to learn to do is say no, I think that’s hard for him.
“There’s always a line of people outside every hotel, every restaurant he’s in, and I think he’s going to have to be a little protective of his own private space sometime. He enjoys the game of basketball, and he’s doing something that he’s wanted to do since he was four years old and that’s play games in the NBA.”
On a night with video tributes and tears for a superstar gone too soon, the Cavs couldn’t secure back-to-back wins. They’ll attempt to get their next victory on Thursday at home against the Raptors.
POSTED 01/28/2020 22:45