CLEVELAND — LeBron James felt like he owed Cleveland fans after a miserable home opener. He repaid them Monday with his first triple-double of the season on a night all of the Cavaliers’ stars shined brightly.
James had 32 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists and the league’s newest “Big Three” dominated in the second half of the Cavs’ 118-111 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans.
Kyrie Irving finished with 32 points and nine assists and Love had 22 points and five rebounds, marking the first time all three of the Cavs’ stars each scored at least 20 points in a game this season.
But the brightest star, as usual, was James. He wrote on his Twitter account before Monday’s game: “I owe y’all one” after he made just 5 of 15 shots from the field and committed eight turnovers in last week’s home-opening loss to the New York Knicks. Monday night was just the second home game of the season and James delivered with the 38th triple-double of his career.
“It worked out,” James said. “It’s good when you put something out there and then it comes true. I owed them one.”
James and guard Kyrie Irving combined for 30 of the Cavs’ 34 points in the third quarter and the Cavs outscored the Pelicans 16-1 to end the quarter, turning a five-point halftime deficit into an 85-79 lead entering the fourth.
“He grabbed the game,” Cavs coach David Blatt said of James. “He understood the moment. He seized the day and made it his day.”
Forward Kevin Love made four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, including three within the first four minutes.
Still, the Pelicans pulled within 101-99 on a layup by forward Anthony Davis, but Love countered with his fourth 3-pointer of the quarter and Irving completed a three-point play to extend the Cavs’ lead to 107-99 with 2:59 left.
Irving finished with 32 points and nine assists and Love had 22 points and five rebounds.
“In order for you to become one of the best, you have to play the best and learn from them,” Davis said. “I love playing against LeBron and the Cavs. They’re a tough team. They have three players who can score the ball at will. We broke down defensively. They scored 118 points. We can’t allow teams to do that.”
Davis had 27 points and 14 rebounds and forward Ryan Anderson scored a season-high 32 points off the bench for the Pelicans (3-3), who won at San Antonio on Saturday and had their brief two-game win streak snapped.
Anderson made five 3-pointers in the first half but sat the first eight minutes of the third quarter and didn’t make his first 3-pointer of the second half until seven minutes remained in the game.
Guard Jrue Holiday had 16 points and five assists, forward Tyreke Evans had 10 assists and center Omer Asik had 10 rebounds for the Pelicans, who struggled defensively most of the night.
The Cavs shot 51 percent from the field in the second half and made 8 of 15 3-pointers, numbers that irritated coach Monty Williams.
“Our defense got us tonight,” Williams said. “We didn’t play much. They scored 67 points in the second half, but I thought even in the first half it wasn’t that great.”
James completed his triple-double when he assisted on Irving’s 3-pointer with 2:26 left. He has looked passive at times this season and aggressive in other games, but he has scored at least 30 points now in half of the Cavs’ games.
“I’ve been playing a lot of basketball the last four years,” James said. “Getting my body back in the flow of things, then stepping into a new system and learning it, it takes time even for me to get the chemistry. How I want to attack, how I want to play to help the team, it’s a process for me as well.”
NOTES: Cavaliers G Matthew Dellavedova is expected to miss 4-6 weeks with a sprained ligament in his left knee. … The Cavs began the night with three of the top five in the league in minutes played this season. Forward LeBron James leads the league at 40.4, guard Kyrie Irving is second and forward Kevin Love is fifth. Coach David Blatt said he isn’t concerned about the heavy load in the short term, but the long-term goal is to reduce the minutes for all three. … The Pelicans’ flight into Cleveland on Sunday was delayed six hours by mechanical and flight crew issues. They didn’t arrive until 2:30 a.m. and had to cancel shootaround Monday morning. … James said he already considers Pelicans forward Anthony Davis, now in his third year, one of the league’s elite. “You look at his numbers now, if he continues to stay healthy and continues to keep growing he can be a superstar in this league for sure,” James said.
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