NEW ORLEANS • It is far too soon in a regular NBA season for LeBron James to press the panic button, but his trigger finger is getting itchy.
After watching the New Orleans Pelicans, playing without All-Star forward Anthony Davis, hand the defending NBA champions Cleveland Cavaliers their fifth loss in seven games - a 124-122 defeat despite a season-high 49 points by Kyrie Irving - James finally reacted. He said on Monday that his team's uninspired play is getting his attention.
James said before the game that it did not feel as though the Cavs had lost four of their previous six games. Not any more. "It feels like we've lost five out of seven," he said. "We've got to figure it out. It's been a crappy 2017 so far."
The Pelicans (18-27) led 70-50 at half-time and by 17 points early in the fourth quarter, and they got just enough relief offence from forward Terrence Jones, who matched his career-best performance with 36 points, and from point guard Jrue Holiday, who had a season-high 33 points and 10 assists.
It was Holiday's sixth career game of at least 30 points and 10 assists, and he said he had to be aggressive in Davis' absence, which the Pelicans did not expect until Davis went through pre-game warm-ups and could not get his deep right thigh bruise to loosen up.
"I had everything (going), to be honest," Holiday said. "Got to the lane pretty well, made some pretty good passes, knocked down some jump shots. So it felt pretty good."
While Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue was thrilled with Irving's performance - 15 of 28 from the field, including eight of 14 from three-point range - he is concerned about the number of minutes his two leading scorers are logging.
Irving played 42 minutes after playing 41 minutes in a 115-118 overtime loss to San Antonio on Saturday. James played 44 minutes after going for 45 minutes against the Spurs.
James had a triple-double with 26 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds, but he needed 21 shots. He also committed a team-high six turnovers, three in the fourth quarter.
"I'm not complaining, but right now we're just trying to get out of a hole," James said. "Coach'll figure it out, and we've got to figure it out as far as minutes, too. We've just got to be better as a team.
"It's not about how many minutes I'm playing right now or being fresh down the stretch. We've got to be good right now, and we're not winning."