When the Cavs have lost in this still-unfolding season, the third quarter has quite often been their downfall.
Friday, the second quarter did its best third-quarter impersonation.
The Hornets outscored the Cavs 36-15 in a second quarter that included a four-minute Cleveland scoring drought, and New Orleans snapped a four-game road winning streak for the Cavs (5-6), sending them to a 108-101 defeat.
Of course, these aren't the same old Hornets nestled somewhere in the back in the Western Conference playoff chase. Entering play Friday, the Hornets (10-1) were tied with the Spurs for the best record in the NBA.
(Incidentally, the Cavs play at San Antonio on Saturday. That qualifies this as a rather challenging road trip.)
The Hornets got production from their usual suspects -- 34 points and 11 rebounds from David West, and 15 points plus 10 assist from Chris Paul -- along with 20 points from Marco Belinelli, who might be starting to emerge as a team mainstay after bouncing from Golden State to Toronto in his first three NBA seasons. Belinelli racked up 20 points, including a trio of three-balls and a 7 of 7 from the free-throw line.
On the other side, it's a shame the second quarter was so bad, because it overshadowed the other 36 minutes, which contained some pretty solid basketball from the wine-and-golders.
In fact, the Cavs won the three remaining quarters, outscoring New Orleans 28-26 in the first, 25-19 in the third and 33-27 in the fourth.
In the fourth, the Cavs showed a great deal of resilience in hauling themselves back from a double-digit deficit to as close as three points in the closing minutes. In the mad dash to the finish line, the Cavs became the first team to hang 100 points on the Hornets all season.
In Byron Scott's return to New Orleans -- where he coached the Hornets from 2004 to '09 -- his balanced offensive attack was on display, as four Cavs players reached double digits in scoring, with an addition three contributing at least eight points. Antawn Jamison, who is beginning to string some good games together, led all Cleveland scorers with 20. Ramon Sessions added 16, but a critical late turnover by the sometimes-wild point guard effectively sealed the game for New Orleans.
Anderson Varejao and Daniel Gibson were the other two Cavs to reach double figures, with 10 each. Varejao also corralled 13 rebounds. J.J. Hickson scored eight points and grabbed eight rebounds in 19 minutes.
As mentioned before, this is a tough trip. The Cavs and Spurs tip off in Alamo country at 8:30 Saturday night. The one morsel of good news about that: the Spurs' lone loss heading into Friday was a home loss.