Team Records: Cleveland (14-24) at Portland (28-9)
Game Info: 7 p.m., TV on KGW, Radio on 620 AM
Vegas Line: Portland -11
Refs: Tony Brothers, Pat Fraher, Scott Twardoski
The Skinny: The Blazers look to sweep their three game homestand against Eastern conference foes as the face the Cavs at home in the last game before a very tough four games in five nights road-trip. The Blazers have been playing down to the competition as of late and they are facing a Cavs team that has been very much up and down as of late. The Cavs are 3-1 since trading for Luol Deng but the one loss was a 44-point drubbing in Sacramento a few days ago and the wins were against Philadelphia, Utah and the Lakers, none of which are exactly very good teams.
Last Time They Met: Lillard hit a 3 from near mid-court with .3 left to give Portland the narrow 3-point win in one of the most exciting games of the year. Lillard had 36 points and 10 assists in the win while Kyrie Irving had 25 points and 10 assists for the Cavs in a losing effort.
Projected Cavaliers Lineup:
PF: Tristan Thompson (Texas-3rd season) – 11.9 PPG, 9.7 RPG, .9 APG
SF: Luol Deng (Duke-10th Season) – 18.5 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 3.5 APG
C: Anderson Varejao (Brazil-10th Season) – 8.3 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 2.2 APG
SG: CJ Miles (Skyline (HS)-9th Season) – 10.4 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 1 APG
PG: Kyrie Irving (Duke-3rd Season) – 21.7 PPG, 3 RPG, 6.1 APG
Player to Watch: Luol Deng (pictured at right) –Given that they had to dump Bynum by January 7th if they didn’t want his deal to be guaranteed, Deng is about the best player the Cavs could have hoped for. Deng is primarily regarded as a very good defender, something the Cavs lack, and can help anchor their struggling defense. On offense, Deng is a serviceable shooter, although often inconsistent, especially from deep. Yet, if Deng only gives them some offense and a lot of good defense, that would be a significant upgrade for the Cavs and is certainly something they would appreciate.
Did You Know?: The Cavs and Blazers entered the NBA the same year (1970) and Portland faced Cleveland in the first-ever NBA game for both teams, a 115-112 Portland victory.
Song of the Day: “Burn On” by Randy Newman. This song discusses Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River catching on fire, which it did in 1969. Enjoy:
Re-Evaluating Cleveland: Falling Short of Expectations
This was supposed to be the year the Cavs broke out of the perpetual lottery cycle and made it back into the playoffs for the first time since LeBron James left. Yet, it hasn’t exactly worked out that way and there are several reasons. First, Kyrie Irving has regressed, however slightly, mostly on offense. Second, the whole Andrew Bynum experiment didn’t exactly work out. Third, #1 pick Anthony Bennett has been an absolute bust so far, posting by far the worst PER of any #1 pick in their first NBA season (1.1). Yet, there remains hope for the Cavs, both because they are in the weak Eastern conference and even know are only a game and a half out of the playoffs and because Luol Deng should help them a fair bit. It may not be the season they were hoping for but its not a lost cause yet.
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.