The New Orleans Pelicans endured a sluggish start with Ryan Anderson sidelined. His return has provided a significant boost, with the forward leading the way in two impressive offensive performances.
He'll try to help the Pelicans to their third straight victory when they host the struggling Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night.
New Orleans (5-6) started 3-9 as Anderson - the team's leading scorer in 2012-13 with 16.2 points per game - sat out with a chip fracture in his right toe. The Pelicans averaged 96.9 points and 43.6 percent shooting without him, topping the 100-point mark twice.
He's had a big impact since returning, scoring 45 points and hitting 16 of 25 from the field - 10 of 16 from 3-point range - in home victories over Philadelphia and Utah. New Orleans shot 55.8 percent and averaged 27.0 assists, up from 21.3 through the previous nine contests.
The Pelicans scored 135 points against the 76ers and 105 against the Jazz.
"It's been a very easy transition because of the guys," said Anderson, who scored 14 of his 19 in the second half against Utah on Wednesday. "It's not a surprise, but it's relieving to know that these guys can just pick that up and we can play as a group ... The guys are getting me open and we're doing a really good job of moving the ball."
Anthony Davis also continued his strong play, posting his second straight eight-block game to go with 22 points and nine rebounds. With 4.0 blocks per game, he trails only Indianapolis' Roy Hibbert (4.4).
Anderson could try to exploit what has been poor perimeter defense by the Cavaliers, who have allowed three of their last four opponents to shoot 40.0 percent or better from beyond the arc. Anderson has made 37.3 percent from 3-point range in 12 career games against Cleveland.
The Cavaliers (4-8) lost 98-91 at home to Washington on Wednesday, four days after knocking off the Wizards for their first road victory, 103-96 in overtime.
Cleveland fell into too large of a hole, trailing by 27 in the third quarter. Kyrie Irving scored 18 of his 28 in the fourth but couldn't prevent the team's fourth defeat in five games.
"We had to make them uncomfortable from the start of the game, not from the end of the third quarter," said Irving, who matched his career high Saturday with 41 points.
Irving averaged 33.0 points and 57.1 percent shooting as Cleveland and New Orleans split two games last season.
Second-leading scorer Dion Waiters (13.1 ppg) was 2 of 13 from the floor and scored 11 points Wednesday after missing two games with the flu. CJ Miles started in his place but left in the first quarter with a strained calf and his status for Friday is uncertain.
The Pelicans have won four of the last five meetings.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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