Donovan Mitchell’s return sparks hot-shooting Cavs past Pelicans

NEW ORLEANS — Donovan Mitchell returned from a seven-game absence and the Cleveland Cavaliers stemmed a two-game slide with style and on the road against an opponent that has been hard to beat lately.

Mitchell scored 14 points, Darius Garland had 27 points and 11 assists, and the Cavaliers combined for 20 3-pointers in a 116-95 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night.

“That’s how we’re supposed to play,” Mitchell said. “Move the ball around, getting stops. It was just fun to watch and be a part of.”

“We really stepped up against a great team,” he added. “It was beautiful.”

Mitchell, who made four 3s, was one of four Cavs with at least that many, along with Garland (six) and Sam Merrill (five) and Georges Niang (four). Cleveland finished 20-of-45 from deep, whereas the Pelicans made just 4-of-22 in losing for the first time in five games.

Center Jarrett Allen had 17 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks for the Cavs, who also were delighted by their 38 assists on 47 made baskets.

Zion Williamson had 33 points and nine rebounds for New Orleans. Brandon Ingram scored 20 and Trey Murphy III 11. New Orleans outscored Cleveland 56-52 in the paint and 21-2 from the foul line — statistical advantages that were more than wiped out by the dramatic disparity in 3-point shooting.

“We just weren’t on from the 3-point line tonight,” Williamson said. “But when nights like that happen, we have to find other ways to be effective.”

The Cavaliers “played with more of a sense of urgency,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. “They were the hungrier team.

“We had a letdown. So, not indicative who we’ve been, and the guys know it,” Green added.

The Cavaliers have hit at least 20 3s in nine games this season, winning eight of those.

“If we’re open, we want to take them. It boosts our offense because people have to chase us around,” Bickerstaff said. “We’ve tried to make the 3-point shot a weapon and I think we did a great job of it tonight.”

Mitchell hadn’t played since Feb. 28 because of a left knee bruise. He said the knee felt better than he expected but that he still has to rebuild confidence in its stability before he’s back to his vintage self.

His point total was just half his 28 per game average for the season, but having him back was big lift for the Cavs.

“He attracts so many people on the offensive end for us. You have to really load up on him,” Garland said. “You have to respect what he does and opens up a lot of stuff for everybody else.”

Cleveland was opportunistic inside but were not looking to stress the Pelicans defensively on the interior for much of the game. The Cavs didn’t attempt their first free throw until Garland scored as he was fouled with nine minutes left in the fourth quarter.

“That just speaks to how well we played in other facets of the game,” Mitchell said.

When Merrill made his final 3 of the game on Cleveland’s next possession to put the Cavs up 100-74, fans began filing out.

Niang scored 16 points and Merrill 15. Cleveland reserve center Damian Jones, who grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, had one of his best games this season, scoring a season-high 14 points.

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