Recap: Blazers 129, Cavs 112 (or, Subtly Nurked)

With the Cavs coming off a long winning streak of one, and the Blazers suffering through an interminable losing streak of two, something was bound to break. Let’s get to it.

1st Quarter: The Cavaliers opened the contest with a starting lineup of Tristan Thompson, Cedi Osman, Rodney Hood, Alec Burks and Collin Sexton. As is their custom, the Cavs’ first play fed Rodney Hood the rock off of Pick and Roll action for a pull-up jumper. Nothing is more indicative of this Cavs season than that opening game philosophy. On the bright side, Rodney got a little deeper than usual, and drilled the first elbow J of the game.

Collin probably had his best open floor play of season when he pushed the ball in early offense, duped Damian Lillard with a sweet behind the back dribble, and finished a righted handed layup.

On the other end of the floor Lillard and Jusuf Nurkic used a strong Pick and Roll game to get Lillard easy looks.

Tristan sagged too deeply off the Pick and Roll leaving Cedi Osman to navigate a huge Nurkic screen all by his lonesome. As the shot left Dame’s hands, Thompson put his arms up in confusion.

I don’t know what he is confused about, but I am confused as to why he is sagging so deeply into the paint against a large center like Nurkic. Nurk has quick feet for such a big man, but there is no reason that Tristan should drop an extra step into the paint against Portland’s primary play.

Thompson is not a good enough rim-protector to warrant that kind of sag against any team, let alone one with the guard shooting of Portland.

Cedi picked up too early fouls in part because of Tristan, bringing Jordan Clarkson into the contest a touch early. Jordan immediately did Jordan mid-range basketball things, and one was left to wonder what his life would be like if he were to switch places with C.J. McCollum.

The Blazers would certainly be worse off for it. C.J. is the far better all-around player. Still, the Portland offensive system would suit Clarkson’s skill-set more than any place he’s been.

Shortly after Jordan checked-in, Jaron Blossomgame and Matthew Dellavedova entered the game for Rodney Hood and Collin Sexton.

A made Portland three forced coach Larry Drew to call the first timeout of the evening, trailing 21:17.

Cameron Payne and Ante Zizic replaced Alec Burks and Tristan out of the break. For Portland, Meyers Leonard checked in for Nurk.

Leonard vs Nurkic is in interesting example of how different body types present different overall advantages. Leonard is naturally skinny but has clearly been working very hard and his body over the last few seasons. He is positively ripped.

Nurkic is naturally a thicker guy. He has also been working very hard, having dropped much of his baby fat. He almost looks svelte in comparison to the now bulky Leonard.

That being said, Nurkic’s natural lower body strength and thick frame still make him the far stronger player of the two. Tristan is a strong man, but Nurkic has no problem moving him around with regularity.

Leonard, though visually strong, still is too frequently moved off his spots. Ante Zizic had a relatively easy time finishing through Leonard off good PnR action with Delly.

The Cavs’ paint scoring and Blossomgame’s defensive hustle contributed to a decent first quarter. At the end of one, the Cavs trailed by just four, 30-26.

2nd Quarter: Drew trotted out Delly, Clarkson, Payne, Blossomgame, and Zizic for the start of the period. A couple of strong buckets in the paint by Blossomgame and Delly knotted the score at 30 a piece.

The possession following a Portland three had me chuckling. With Portland overplaying Zizic’s post position in a mismatch, the middle of the floor was wide open for a weak-side flash. Delly could be heard screaming to Blossomgame “Flash, Flaaaaaasshh!!!!” before the young man finally got the unsubtle message. You and me both, Delly.

To Jaron’s credit, he heard the scream, eventually flashed to the middle, and connected on an “oopsie” bank shot for a Cavalier lead.

A Cameron Payne putback gave coach Terry Stotts a reason to stop the action. After the timeout, Portland drilled another three in what was becoming a theme.

With seven minutes left trailing 39-40, the starters trickled back into the game. Osman hit a pull-up jumper upon his return, but immediately picked up a foul battling for a defensive rebound.

Seth Curry led a 9-3 mini run for the Blazers. Collin Sexton had a hard time following guys over and under screens off ball. As usual it was more about his confusion than his physical capabilities.

Just when it looked like the Cavs were going to lose touch, Rodney Hood connected on three aggressive buckets for most of his 11 first half points.

The Blazers lit it up from outside in the first half connecting on 11 of 17 shots from behind the arc. Fortunately, the Cavs’ work in the paint help to limit the deficit. At halftime 61-55 Blazers.

3rd Quarter: The third quarter started with a hard drive to the hoop from Rodney Hood netting two free throws. It was good that Hood was aggressive throughout the beginning of the third quarter.

Without him the Cavs may have trailed by even more. Jake Layman, starting for the injured Maurice Harkless put on a little show in the first part of the quarter.

Layman scored out of the post, off of a closeout, and from three. The young man is bouncy, has good length, and sweet stroke. Layman looked great in the summer league and preseason. He has been playing well since Harkless has been out of the lineup. If he can continue this level of play, the Blazers could get interesting come May.

Some bad misses by Hood and Osman, combined with an increase in playing force from the Blazers lead to a 15 point deficit with 6:38 left in the quarter.

Al-Farouq Aminu’s trail position three in transition was the Blazers’ 14th made three out of 23 attempts, and gave them a 21 point lead. Jusuf Nurkic was playing well on the defensive end and passing like his ex-teammate Nikola Jokic on offense.

The Cavs defense, like it has been throughout the entire season, was undermined by Jordan Clarkson inability to guard any opposition screen action. On one lovely occasion, Clarkson randomly doubled Lillard, screened himself against Dellavedova’s body, and fell horribly out of a position leading to a McCollum lay up.

On a subsequent possession, Damian Lillard got an easy layup when Jordan Clarkson provided zero help on a right wing backscreen against Matthew Dellavedova. This can’t happen.

And yet it happens every game, on multiple possessions, because Jordan Clarkson is a horrible defender. A simple basketball fan would likely see Clarkson’s offensive contributions in the quarter and conclude that he was decent during that stretch. He wasn’t. He was decidedly not decent.

Ante Zizic did play well, however, getting to the line and protecting the rim when given the opportunity. Between his and Delly’s play, Cleveland was able to stay within Delly’s sizable screaming distance at 100-85.

Fourth Quarter: The final frame did not begin with any real optimism as Evan Turner abused Matthew Dellavedova in the post. Delly couldn’t get it back on the offensive end missing a couple decent looks.

Cameron Payne did his best to give the Wine and Gold a slim glimmer of hope. Payne drilled a right-wing bomb that was sadly followed by Zach Collins’s third three of the game. Payne came back to drill a left-wing three with Collins hugging his left side, and followed that with great change of pace drive and feed for a Zizic And-one.

That strange line up of Sexton, Clarkson, Payne, Blossomgame, and Zizic cut the lead to ten when Payne smoothly dropped in a high teardrop with 5:54 remaining to make it 112-102. 

That was the last good Cavalier action of the evening. From there, Nurkic and the Blazers responded with a 10-0 run with Nurkic dominating in all facets. Jusuf wracked up a quick four assists as he and his teammates were clearly hunting for his triple-double.

Zizic could have done a better job providing ball pressure during the span, but the game essentially ended after the Blazers pushed the lead to 20.

Nurk’s 10th assist gave him the first triple-double for the Blazers since Nic Batum had one in 2014. It was a clean, Jason Kidd-esque line of 10 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists, and a less Kiddian five blocks, for the Bosnian mountain. At least the Cavs didn’t allow him any steals.

Thoughts: 

The Cavs lost a game in which they only turned the ball over three times, matched the opposition’s rebound total, and shot a respectable 47% from the field. They lost by 17 points.

Why? Well, same answer as always. The other team used and abused the Cavs from deep. The Blazers made 16 of 29 from deep, while the Cavs only hit on 6-19.

Part of that is because the Cavs continue to ICE the PnR with personelle that shouldn’t ICE, aka Tristan Thompson. What is the point of Tristan on the defensive end if he sags all the way near the bucket on PnR defense. Even Zizic, who theoretically has slower feet, understood that he can’t leave his guards completely out to dry on the perimeter unless he his able to truly protect the rim. Tristan was as terrible as his minus-20 would indicate.

Equally terrible was Cedi Osman. I love me some Cedi, but this is getting ridiculous. He is so completely in his head right now that the only shots he makes with regularity are ones where he is on the move. I don’t know what the solution is, but Cedi should be better.

Cameron Payne showed the league that he is better than Patrick McCaw. So, there’s that. I like his pace on offense. He does a decent job of starting and stopping, “Nashing” and generally looking to free up space for teammates or himself. I don’t trust his three ball, but he is playing well enough to be on an NBA roster. Good for him.

The Blazers are close to being much better. If Jake Layman and Zach Collins can continue to develop, their roster starts to make a lot of sense. They have struggled to find shooting from the wing for years. Collins needs to cut the fouling. Layman needs to simply be more consistent. I like both players.

 

 

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MikeO
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MikeO
1 month 7 hours ago

Will help them tank.

Jason
Guest
Jason
1 month 13 hours ago

Upside is just another word for: “right now, you suck.”

Meanwhile, in terms of possible trade partners.

OKC has lost 5 of 6, including the last two to the Hawks (140+ points) and LeBron-less Lakers (138 pts) we just beat & held under 100 pts. 2 games up on Utah for 9th. Toughest schedule in the league. Russ can’t shoot. Bad bench. Now leaky D. Last in 3PT shooting %.

Houston. Capela out 4-6. Gordon out again. CP3 still a week away. House in G-league. If Harden cools….or runs out of gas…doom. One game ahead of Utah. 12th toughest schedule.

Pels. 3 games under .500. 3.5 games behind 8th. 7th toughest schedule. Finally have Payton & Mirotic back, but cannot afford to fall much further behind.

Lakers. Big win. But still are 29th in 3PT shooting and tied with Utah. 2nd toughest schedule left.

Minnesota. 2 games under .500. Three behind 8th. Covington is hurt. 4th toughest schedule.

I think the damn breaks soon on wing deals.

JRL
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JRL
1 month 10 hours ago

Do TT, Hood or Clarkson sound appealing to any of those teams?

Is JR still a Cavs???
Can we get rid of him for anything???

MikeO
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MikeO
1 month 11 hours ago

Lakers absolutely destroyed the Thunder in the paint and on the boards. I think Lakers out rebounded them by like 20, and had a ton of easy put backs. It was mostly Zubac, too.

Nate Smith
Admin
1 month 14 hours ago

Why haven’t the Cavs signed this guy?

Jason
Guest
Jason
1 month 13 hours ago

Because he isn’t even a starter in G-league and is a career 28% on FGs and 24% on 3s.

Just a thought.

https://www.basketball-reference.com/players/c/cabocbr01.html

JRL
Guest
JRL
1 month 12 hours ago

Rough 😥

Nate Smith
Admin
1 month 14 hours ago

EvilGenius
Admin
1 month 23 hours ago

If we miss out on Zion… this guy looks promising…

scotch
Guest
scotch
1 month 20 hours ago

I dont know if you’re being sarcastic…but no. zion should be a Cavalier. He is lightyears ahead of competition….College basketball is literally almost useless to determine NBA success. In that college standouts don’t make sense to draft unless they have very specific skills. Zion or bust should be our cry…his teammates aren’t that good.

JMay
Editor
1 month 13 hours ago

The fact of the matter is that the bottom four spots of the draft have been significantly evened out. We have about the same chance to get the 4th pick as the 1st. In the event we DON’T get the first pick, we need to look at some other prospects. And despite claims that this is a much weaker draft than last year’s, there actually is some good “non-Zion” talent at the top that would be pretty good gets.

JRL
Guest
JRL
1 month 14 hours ago

I’m with you Scotch.

College basketball is so different from the NBA that only a small percentage of standouts actually turn into something special.

I’m absolutely sure there are 30+ G Leaguers who can do exactly what this kid did on that vid. Nothing special.

MikeO
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MikeO
1 month 1 day ago

Watching Brandon Ingram makes me dislike the game of basketball…

Jason
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Jason
1 month 1 day ago

Lakers could be 10th by the end of the night.

Suns get Toronto without Kawhi tonight.

If Kanter would have traveled to London, maybe the Knicks win. If Erdogan costs us Zion, I will be ticked.

John B
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John B
1 month 1 day ago

I will be ticked on principle if Erdogan somehow gets to Kanter. Erdogan is in the vein of Putin. An awful, awful human being in charge of a country who murders his opposition.

Nate Smith
Admin
1 month 14 hours ago

I doubt he will. Turkey is a strategic ally that we keep at arm’s length.

Jason
Guest
Jason
1 month 14 hours ago

Well, our Pres is withdrawing from Syria because Erdogan told him to. And has made numerous attempts to extradite that cleric from PA, so I do not really share your optimism there.

Jason
Guest
Jason
1 month 1 day ago

I cannot root for a lot of these dudes. Kyrie, Kawhi, KD. Entitled, headcase, or both.

Knicks let one get away in London at the buzzer. Drat!

MikeO
Guest
MikeO
1 month 1 day ago

I know millennials love Irving, but I think he’s the most tiresome dude in the NBA. I can only imagine how annoying the media circus around him will be when he’s in New York next year.

NOMAD
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NOMAD
1 month 1 day ago

HOTPANTS—-YOU ARE SO CORRECT—MODERN DAY NBA TRAGEDY—-HAVE SOME TALENT/ ALLOWS YOU TO ACT LIKE A JERK AND DEMAND THE WORLD—WHY ALOT OF DIE HARDED NBA FANS ( ME INCLUDED ) HAVE LOST INTEREST IN THE GAME

Nate Smith
Admin
1 month 1 day ago

Hotpantsbreakdown
Guest
Hotpantsbreakdown
1 month 1 day ago

That sorta makes sense, but who wouldn’t give Kyrie a max contract? A headcase with one of the most lethal offensive skillsets in the league? The dude could probably claim the earth is flat and still get paid…

Nate Smith
Admin
1 month 14 hours ago

And three knee surgeries since 2015

Hotpantsbreakdown
Guest
Hotpantsbreakdown
1 month 1 day ago

The Kyrie revelations are important and fascinating. He just created a window into his thinking that not only confirms but amplifies what most of thought: he’s a super talented headcase. But more importantly, it seems clear that LeBron wanted to stay and build Kyrie (at least one more year, per the source in the Athletic). Alas, Kyrie wasn’t having it. Such a modern NBA tragedy

NickNevers
Guest
NickNevers
1 month 1 day ago

I’m so over all this stupid Kyrie and LeBron stuff and apparently Love was present during this phone call. Too funny, but it means nothing. Whether we like or not, those two are gone and didn’t want to be here.

What’s done is done and as painful as it is, just gotta focus on the present and the future.

daspec90
Guest
daspec90
1 month 22 hours ago

If Kyrie ends up in LA, I will vomit.

NOMAD
Guest
NOMAD
1 month 1 day ago

WHEN IS KYRIE GOING TO LEARN TO—“STFU”—MORE HE TALKS —THE MORE ENEMIES HE MAKES

Christopher
Guest
Christopher
1 month 1 day ago

NOMAD, too right–even his apologies betray their intentions: “I’ve got to stop losing it on these young guys when they do dumb stuff,” or something to that effect. The irony of ironies–so Kyrie says he realizes he was being mentored by LeBron all that time–not insulted/demeaned–he has apologized, and he now will do the same for the Celtics’ young players… does HE see the strangeness of all this?

Reminds me of Smaug from The Hobbit, who entertained the thought of Thorin taking the ring only so it would destroy him slowly and painfully. Will Kyrie destroy whatever is good or right about the Celtics by doing as LeBron did… when he is nowhere near the everyday, all-around force of nature LeBron was?

NOMAD
Guest
NOMAD
1 month 1 day ago

GET THE “LEBRON FIGURE ” NOW FOR CEDI —WHAT A DIFFERENCE FROM THE OTHER NIGHT IN L.A. ——PAYNE I BELIEVE JUST EARNED A CONTRACT FOR THE REMAINDER OF THE YEAR (AND POSSIBLY MORE ) MAYBE CAVS TEAM–YOUNG / NO PRESSURE IS THE RIGHT ENVIRONMENT FOR HIM —CONTINUE TO GIVE ANTE THE MIN’S HE NEEDS / DESERVES —BELIEVE HE WILL CONTINUE TO GROW—YES HE WILL HAVE SOME BAD GAMES / MOMENTS –BUT HE NEEDS THE MIN’S !!!——WHERE IS ” DENG IT ” BECAUSE DANG IT WE COULD HAVE USED “DENG IT : )

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