The game was tied at 96 with 2:31 left. The Blazers were looking forward to the start of a road trip and the Cavs were eager to end theirs. It felt like the game had set the table for another classic finish between these two odd rivals, but then the other shoe, which had been levitating conspicuously near the Moda center’s jumobtron fell with a thud. LaMarcus Aldridge went off and the Blazers ended the game on a 12-0 run, a run which the Cavs were powerless to stop. The Blazers seemed stifled the whole game, more by themselves than by Cleveland, but after the official timeout when it was tied, they played like their mental block had been lifted and they torched the Cavs.
The game started like the one yesterday, with Luol Deng hitting every shot he took. Nicolas Batum is a far superior defender to Wes Johnson, but Deng couldn’t be slowed early on. The Blazers, off a long layoff, were fairly sloppy and gave the Cavs the ball back. Cleveland shot 55% in the first half, but didn’t get to the rim enough and shot zero free throws in the frame. Meantime, Portland only made one three in the period. It was a weird quarter and the Cavs stayed up by shooting better than the Blazers.
However, the Cavs success seemed like a slight mirage. The Blazers are an elite shooting team and they kept getting open shots. This happens; shots don’t always go down, no matter how open. Cleveland was getting by on hitting the types of shots Portland was missing. Most of the offense ran through Kyrie, Deng, and Waiters, who all scored over 20 points. We didn’t get another epic Lillard v. Irving duel, although both had good games.
Tristan Thompson struggled to guard Aldridge straight up, but he was a force on the glass. Varejao wasn’t substantially better, and the team was forced to occasionally send help. Tyler Zeller played nine minutes and got his money’s worth, picking up five fouls in that time. Aldridge was generally able to pass out of these double teams and find shooters in the first half, but Cleveland at least varied their defensive looks.
In the fourth, the magic started to run out a bit for the Cavs. They managed to keep it close, but it was a more tenuous affair. Deng started to lag a bit, his jumpers falling noticeably short at times. Waiters hit a long three to give the Cavs a one-point lead with just under four minutes left, but then Aldridge came alive. He immediately answered with a three, his first of the season, then scored six more straight. Aldridge also reclaimed dominance over the glass and pulled down two timely boards which Portland turned into two quick threes to seal it. What was tied in crunch time became a blowout. Portland never even needed to play the free throw game. Cleveland moves to 2-2 on the road trip, with a game in Denver on Friday.
– The Blazers announcers kept pronouncing Luol Deng’s name as ‘Loo-El.’
– Jarrett Jack hit a three tonight and that’s about it. Ditto for C.J. Miles, who the team didn;t run anything for really.
– Henry Sims earned a brief one-minute cameo at the end of the first half.
– Luol Deng loves that left elbow jumper. A few times, he even dribbled further from the basket to get to his spot.