Team Records: Cleveland (9-31) at Portland (20-18)
Game Info: 7 p.m., TV on KGW, Radio on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.
Vegas Line: Portland -7
The Skinny: The Blazers look to put a stop to their three game losing streak as they welcome in the struggling Cavs to start a five game homestand. Portland has lost three straight close games where the formula has been the same, go down big, make a comeback, come up just short. Cleveland has been in a tailspin since they last met Portland, going 5-19 since the teams met in early December.
Last Time They Met: In perhaps the game of the year, Nicolas Batum nailed a 3 with .2 left on the clock in double OT to give Portland a 1-point win.
Projected Cavaliers Lineup:
PF: Tristan Thompson (Texas, 2nd season) – 10.1 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 1.2 APG
SF: Alonzo Gee (Alabama, 4th season) – 11.3 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 2.1 APG
C: Tyler Zeller (North Carolina, Rookie) – 8.1 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 1.1 APG
SG: CJ Miles (Skyline (HS), 7th Season) – 11.3 PPG, 2.7 RPG, .6 APG
PG: Kyrie Irving (Duke, 2nd season) – 23 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 5.6 APG
Player to Watch: Kyrie Irving (pictured at right) – I wrote last year that I wasn’t sure if Kyrie Irving would ever be a star, I was wrong, he is. When healthy, Irving is one of the most exciting young players in the game today, Kyrie is a high-efficiency point guard who can score with either hand and fit passes into impossibly small windows. Irving excels at keeping defenders off balance and can hit both from deep and from the line. His defense needs some serious work but give him some time and perhaps he will at least become a serviceable defender in a year or two.
Did You Know?: Byron Scott recently became only the eighth person in NBA history to win 400 games both as a coach and as a player. The only other active coach to have done so is Doc Rivers.
Song of the Day: “Hastily Made Cleveland Tourism Video (TNT Version)”. After last night’s loss we all need a good laugh and its even better if it makes fun of some of our favorite basketball announcers. Enjoy:
Portland: Out – SG Elliott Williams (Achilles), C Meyers Leonard (Ankle).
Cleveland: Out – C Anderson Varejao (Knee).
Re-Evaluating Cleveland: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
Look it was never going to be easy for the Cavs to replace the best player in the NBA when LeBron famously “took (his) talents to South Beach” but you could have forgiven Cavs fans for being hopeful at the end of last season when Kyrie Irving won the Rookie of the Year and they appeared to be on the upswing. After Kyrie Irving got injured before the start of the season, the Cavs stayed afloat for a bit when rookie Dion Waters was playing well and Anderson Varejao was playing at an all-star lever. However, following their double OT loss to Portland, the team went completely off the rails, managing to win only one of their next eleven games (and that vs. the Lakers of all teams). So Cleveland thought that, given that this looked like another lost season, they might flip Varejao to a contender for picks but then Varejao went down with a major injury. Basically, anything good that happens for the Cavs is met by an immediate and forceful negative event that leaves them, at best, no better off and arguably worse off. Whether they can find a way out of this mess soon is anyone’s guess.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They play as they are capable. Look I know Portland lost a heartbreaking OT game last night but they are objectively better than the Cavs. Play like it and you’ll get the win.
Cleveland wins if: They out rebound Portland. Without Varejao the Cavs are not a very good rebounding team. Still if they can manage to out rebound the Blazers they should be able to get a win in the Rose City.