Team Records: Portland (32-13) at Cleveland (26-20)
Game Info: 4 p.m., TV on KGW, Radio on 620 AM
Vegas Line: Cleveland -5.5
Refs: Zach Zarba, Mark Ayotte, Derek Richardson
The Skinny: The Blazers look to shake off a bit of rust following Monday’s snowed out game in Brooklyn as they take on the so-called King and the rest of the Cavs in Cleveland. After taking a while to find their groove, the Cavs taken off, winners of seven straight, Cleveland is coming off a win Tuesday night in Detroit. The Cavs are 7-1 since LeBron returned from injury.
Last Time They Met: The Blazers subdued the Cavs in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score indicated. Portland won 101-82 behind 27 points from Lillard. LeBron tallied only 11 points for the Cavs in the loss.
Projected Cavaliers Lineup:
PF: Kevin Love (UCLA-7th season) – 17.5 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 2.2 APG
SF: LeBron James (St. Vincent St. Mary’s (HS)-12th season) – 26.2 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 7.4 APG
C: Timofey Mozgov (Russia-5th Season) – 8.8 PPG, 8 RPG, .4 APG
SG: JR Smith (St. Benedict’s Prep (HS)-11th Season) – 12.1 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 3 APG
PG: Kyrie Irving (Duke-4th Season) – 20.9 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 5.2 APG
Player to Watch: Kyrie Irving (pictured at right) – There was a time a few years ago when I would have told you that Irving was clearly better than Lillard and it was likely to stay that way. Well, I was wrong, and its not because Irving is bad, its because Lillard is good. Irving has great playmaking and ball protection skills, turning the ball over very seldom for a top tier PG. He is equally adept at scoring on jumpers and attacking the lane. However, despite having a high level of athletic ability he’s not a great defender. Still, Irving is yet another one of the NBA’s crop of great young PGs and he is a tough one to beat.
Did You Know?: Kyrie Irving and LeBron James are both averaging above 20 points and 5 assists. If they keep those averages for the entire season they would be only the fifth duo in league history to do so.
Song of the Day: “Be Prepared” from the Lion King. No king, no king la la la la la la. Enjoy:
Portland: Out-PF/C Joel Freeland (Shoulder), C Robin Lopez (Hand), Questionable-SF Nicolas Batum (Wrist)
Cleveland: Out-C Anderson Varejao (Achillies)
Re-Evaluating Cleveland: Finding Their Groove
It remains to be seen whether this is truly a title-capable Cavs team. They struggled far more getting going than LeBron’s Miami team or Boston’s big 3 ever did but now they seem to have found their groove. There remain legitimate questions about their coach, about Kevin Love, about JR Smith being anywhere close to consistent enough to win it all but there is no question that they are playing like one of the best teams in the league right now. Make no mistake, they might not be a great team but they are certainly a very good one, far better than they looked before LeBron’s injury.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They make Cleveland play sloppy. The Cavs aren’t the most fluid team on offense at times. If the Blazers can make them play sloppy, they should be able to get the season sweep.
Cleveland wins if: LeBron and Love combine for 60 points. If Cleveland’s two best players show up ready to go and produce good games Tuesday, it’ll be hard for the Cavs to lose.