CLEVELAND (AP) — Darius Garland has developed a knack for when it's time for him to take over a game.
On Monday, it was pretty obvious.
Garland scored 30 points and Jarrett Allen added 24 as the Cleveland Cavaliers rallied in the fourth quarter with star Donovan Mitchell injured on the bench and beat the road-weary New Orleans Pelicans 113-103.
Mitchell scored 11 points in 22 minutes before sitting out the fourth with what the team called a strained left groin. Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff did not provide any specifics on Mitchell's injury or its severity.
The Cavs were down 81-78 entering the final 12 minutes before Garland made a 3-pointer and fed Allen for a dunk as Cleveland blitzed New Orleans 16-2 to start the period and open an 11-point lead.
The Pelicans were still within striking distance when Garland dropped a pair of 3s — the second a 32-footer — in the final two minutes to put them away. Garland scored 25 and added eight of his 11 assists in the second half.
“Darius is really good,” Bickerstaff said with a smirk when asked about Garland's growth. “He understands the game within the game. He understands when his time is. He's thinking the game at a higher level this year, for sure.”
Evan Mobley added 19 points as Cleveland improved to 19-4 at home.
The Pelicans were once again without stars Zion Williamson (strained hamstring) and Brandon Ingram (bruised toe) due to injuries. New Orleans has managed to stay competitive despite missing 46 points per game from those two.
C,J. McCollum scored 25 and and Jonas Valanciunas had 22 and 13 rebounds for the Pelicans, who went 2-3 on a five-game, 10-day trip.
“We’ve not been lucky with injuries,” Valanciunas said. "We’re missing really important guys, missing our core. It’s been tough, but we can’t feel sorry for ourselves. You have to keep pushing and try to play through it.”
McCollum has had to carry the scoring load with Williamson and Ingram out. He only had four points at half before scoring 14 in the third quarter to help the Pelicans carry a lead into the fourth.
That's when the Cavs buckled down on defense and Garland went to work.
“I just tried to be aggressive,” Garland said.
Allen has seen Garland take a major step forward in his fourth season.
“He's definitely a lot more confident in his role,” Allen said. "He's telling us where to be. Making sure his bigs are in the right spots so we can help him out. He's facilitating the offense. In timeouts he's talking.
“Obviously, he's an amazing player on the court but off the court there are a lot more things that have elevated.”
MINUTE BY MINUTE
While guard Ricky Rubio's return from knee surgery is a major positive for the Cavs, it also presents some challenges for Bickerstaff, who must balance getting him playing time at the expense of other reserves.
He's tinkering with rotation combinations, and that may mean someone's going to lose minutes.
“Sometimes it’s frustrating, all the guys want to play and they proven they’re capable,” he said. “But sometimes they all can’t.”
Pelicans: Williamson has missed the past seven games, and the team hasn't given a firm timetable on his return due to the unpredictable nature of his injury. ... Ingram has only played in 15 games after missing 27 last season. ... G/F Herb Jones (lower back bruise) missed his third game in a row.
Cavaliers: Rubio played 17 minutes in his first home game in 386 days. ... F Kevin Love, whose name will undoubtedly surface in upcoming trade speculation because of his expiring contract, has been in a prolonged shooting slump. He went 0 of 4 on 3-pointers and is 3 of 21 from long range in his past six games. ... F Dean Wade (sprained shoulder) was close to returning after missing more than a month, but recently rolled his ankle when he stepped on someone's foot during a 1-on-1 drill in rehab.
Pelicans: Host Miami on Wednesday,
Cavaliers: At Memphis on Wednesday.
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