Team Records: Portland (21-4) at Cleveland (9-14)
Game Info: 4 p.m., TV on CSNNW, Radio on 620 AM
Vegas Line: Portland -4.5
Refs: John Goble, Kane Fitzgerald, Eli Roe
The Skinny: Fresh off a thrilling OT win over the Pistons Sunday night, the Blazers head to Cleveland for a match-up of the teams that had their respective conference players of the week last week (Aldridge and Irving respectively). Cleveland has been very much up and down so far this year, appearing to be good at one moment and then awful the next. The Cavs have won five straight at home and five of their last seven overall, and are coming off a loss at Miami their last time out.
Last Season: The two teams split the season series 1-1, with both teams winning on the road. Portland has won four of the last five versus the Cavs overall.
Projected Cavaliers Lineup:
PF: Tristan Thompson (Texas-3rd season) – 11.4 PPG, 10 RPG, .8 APG
SF: Alonzo Gee (Alabama-5th season) – 3.9 PPG, 2.7 RPG, .7 APG
C: Andrew Bynum (St. Joseph (HS)-8th season) – 8.3 PPG, 5 RPG, 1.1 APG
SG: CJ Miles (Skyline (HS)-9th Season) – 8.4 PPG, 2 RPG, 1.1 APG
PG: Kyrie Irving (Duke-3rd Season) – 20.9 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 5.8 APG
Player to Watch: Kyrie Irving (pictured at right) – Kyrie Irving is one of my favorite players in the league right now. An extremely talented point guard with the ability to finish in a variety of ways, Irving is one of the fastest rising stars in the league. Kryie can hit from pretty much any place on the court on offense and is a stone-cold assassin when his team needs a big shot late in games. Although his shooting has become a bit more inconsistent this year than in his first two seasons, Kryie is still one of the most dangerous players in the league on offense. His defense needs work, but is improving and is, at least, solid. Kyrie’s biggest problem may be staying on the court, as he missed 53 games due to injury his first two seasons. Still, here’s hoping he can stay healthy this year and remain one of the most exciting and dynamic players in the league today.
Did You Know?: Cleveland’s team was named the Cavaliers after a contest sponsored by the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper. The other finalists were “Jays”, “Foresters” and “Presidents.”
Song of the Day: “Baby, Baby” by Amy Grant. This was the song that was at the top of the charts the last time the Blazers had the best record in the NBA this late in the season. Enjoy:
Portland: Out – PG CJ McCollum (Foot)
Cleveland: Questionable-SG Carrick Felix (Knee)
What do you get if you combine poor offense a below average defense? Sadly the answer so far this season has been the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs have struggled mightily on both ends of the court, ranking near the bottom in both offensive and defensive efficiency. On offense, their shooting is slightly below average but their real problem is they don’t share the ball and they turn it over way too much. On defense, the Cavs are, at best, below average. They do a good job securing defensive boards and limiting second chance points, which is a good thing since they allow teams to shooting over 45% against them. Cleveland has struggled mightily against good teams this season, posting only a 2-6 record against teams over .500. However, they can be tough at home and they will not just roll over for the Blazers. This should be a good game.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They make someone other than Kyrie Irving beat them. Kyrie Irving is the one player on this Cleveland team that truly scares me. If the Blazers can make his teammates try and beat them, Portland should win fairly easily.
Cleveland wins if: They hold Portland under 90 points. Cleveland is going to have to play one of its best games of the year to beat Portland and that includes having a really good night on defense. Even then, it may be too much to ask unless Kyrie goes off and does something special, which, to be fair, he is perfectly capable of doing.