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Pelicans' Cousins looks for repeat performance vs. Cavaliers
NEW ORLEANS -- The 2-3 New Orleans Pelicans enter Saturday night's game against the 3-2 Cleveland Cavaliers following a successful 2-1 road trip and a stunning 41-point, 23-rebound performance by Pelicans center DeMarcus Cousins in a 114-106 victory over Sacramento on Thursday.
The Pelicans also hope to have Anthony Davis back in the starting lineup after he tweaked his left knee and quad early in a Tuesday night loss to Portland and sat out the victory over Sacramento.
The Cavaliers are trying to get their new-look lineup in sync after showing some defensive lapses in allowing 112.7 points per game in their last three contests against Orlando, Chicago and Brooklyn, teams that are not exactly offensive juggernauts.
Davis, averaging 24.3 points, 13.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks this season, showed a lot of spark by jumping off the bench to cheer Cousins' monster effort.
Playing in front of his former home crowd, which largely embraced his return, Cousins was the first NBA player to post at least 41 points, 23 rebounds and six assists in a game since Joe Barry Carroll did it in 1987. Cousins led the Pelicans back from a 19-point first-half deficit.
"We want to be a team that doesn't make excuses," Cousins said. "We're missing three starters (Davis, point guard Rajon Rondo and forward Solomon Hill), and every night we're coming out battling. We're putting ourselves in position to win games, and that's all we can do -- leave it all out on the floor and whatever happens, happens."
During their second-half rally against the Kings, the Pelicans played Cousins and four guards -- Jrue Holiday, E'Twaun Moore, Jameer Nelson and Ian Clark. The smaller lineup might be something they consider using more frequently, especially with the offensive struggles of forward Dante Cunningham.
Nelson connected on four 3-pointers and Holiday had his best game of the season with 20 points and seven assists.
"I thought Jrue played more like Jrue," New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said. "He was aggressive offensively and he did a great job defensively. Jameer hadn't had many practices. Some of the plays I called, he looked at me like I'm crazy."
The Pelicans hope to add some frontcourt depth with the signing of veteran forward Josh Smith, a perimeter threat, to a non-guaranteed contract using the injury hardship exception.
The Cavaliers could get some good news on the injury front. Guard Derrick Rose is recovering from a sprained ankle and hopes to play against the Pelicans.
Forward Kevin Love is off to a slow start. Shooting just 41.8 percent from the field and only 24 percent (6 of 25) on 3-pointers.
J.R. Smith has been ice cold from the outside, going 3 of 25 on 3-pointers while playing with a sore back. Dwyane Wade has also struggled shooting.
LeBron James has held up his share of the load, averaging 27.6 points, 9.0 rebounds and 7.4 assists in logging 37.8 minutes in his 15th season. He played in his Cavaliers' record 772nd game on Wednesday night against the Nets.
"With J.R., everything is mental," James said. "It's all mental. The reason D-Wade struggled is he's on a completely new team, running all new stuff. He's trying to figure that out."
Updated October 27, 2017