Three days off sure felt like three weeks away from Blazer basketball, Portland (29-9) enjoyed as much time off as they could as they faced the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers (14-25) at the Moda Center. The Cavs remember quite well of Damian Lillard nailing the game winning shot back in December, since then they have acquired Luol Deng from the Bulls and shipped away Andrew Bynum. Deng has given this Cleveland team fresh legs in scoring and helped beat the Lakers the previous night. With three-days of rest, the Blazers used that time to work on defense and sharpen their shooting as a brutal four-game road trip in Texas and OKC looms.
Both squads played close enough for much of the game and couldn’t build a lead larger than eight. Lillard was the man on fire in the first half and when the Blazers needed to pull away late, LaMarcus Aldridge had another monster game to put the Cavs out of their misery. Portland wins 108-96 and now gear up for one of the most difficult road-trips this season has to offer.
You can bet the Blazers worked on defense during their mini-vacation and right from the start and for a team that doesn’t force turnovers, they were doing just so. Cleveland was hanging around due to large part by Deng as he hits his first four field goals and ten points. Offensively for Portland the outside shot was being stubborn so they resorted to going inside and driving to the paint, which worked for awhile but a three-pointer from Deng on an 9-2 run gives the Cavs their first lead of the night. Mo Williams comes in and nails Portland’s first three then throws it away on the final possession and Cleveland has a 27-26 lead.
As the second unit trickled in, Portland’s shooting percentage took a serious tumble as they watched Dion Waiters score from all sides of the court. Combined with easy second chance points, trips to the foul line and picking off lazy passes and the Cavs are in the middle of a 11-0 run and their shooting percentage soars to 56 percent. Portland goes three minutes without a made field goal until Lillard checks back in and hits a few three-point shots like it wasn’t a big deal. At halftime Lillard accumulates 20 first-half points to regain the lead and go into halftime up 54-50.
Changing baskets didn’t help the Blazers’ growing frustrations from shooting outside jumpers as CJ Miles makes a three to take back the lead. Matthews responds back with one of his own and much of the third and early fourth quarters are seesawing in between not-so-sexy possessions on either team. Once again the second unit got stagnant on offense and forced Aldridge to stay on the court for the entire third period. Williams tries another shot to beat the horn but Aldridge has to clean up again and makes it, putting the Blazers back on top 77-75 and scoring the last six points.
Maybe it’s the new cool thing to step on the gas in the fourth, but everything switched suddenly in Portland’s favor and the Cavs tried really hard to keep up. Tristan Thompson though he would get an easy jam but Thomas Robinson said “NO!” and stuffs him at the rim. Williams is making threes and so was Lillard. Midway through the quarter and Cleveland on the break of another mini-run to respond, Portland goes smart and just gives the ball to Aldridge who in return hits his first three-point shot of the season, free throws, midrange jumpers and practically everything else in his tool belt. The night was capped by consecutive three-pointers from Wesley Matthews and Lillard and Cleveland knew they were finished.
Who Was Hot
- LaMarcus Aldridge with another incredible fourth-quarter performance that earned “MVP” chants to rain down when he entered the foul line: 32 points, 18 rebounds, four assists, one three, 12-26 makes and one big smile during his post-game interview.
- Damian Lillard took another victory against Kyrie Irving, scoring 20 points in the first half but was quiet the rest of way, letting LMA do his thing: 28 points, six rebounds, five assists, two steals and 5-10 from deep.
- And this:
- Kudos for the link from Dane Carbaugh.
- After nine seasons in Chicago, Luol Deng is providing some needed offense as well as teaching defense on the other end for Cleveland. He had the hot hand in Los Angeles last night and tonight had 25 points, six rebounds, two assists and three steals.
- The three-point shot was “meh” for most of the time, but came through to answer those runs that saw Cleveland were on, 11-27 for Portland, 6-23 for Cleveland.
- Rebounds: Portland 48 – Cleveland 42
- Assists: Portland 27 – Cleveland 17
Who Was Not
Mo Williams caused mo problems than good, same story: eight points, seven assists and three turnovers on 3-11 shots in 29 minutes.
Greg Oden made his first appearance on an NBA court for the Miami Heat for the first time since December 5, 2009 in a loss against the Washington Wizards. That’s 1,502 days. He tallied six points, two rebounds and one foul in eight minutes on 2-3 from the field. Here’s hoping he sustains a healthy career.
Get ready Rip City. San Antonio-Dallas-Houston-OKC are next on the board. Rest up and buckle up.