Cavaliers 104, Trail Blazers 99
LeBron James had another of those oh-no-he-didn’t-type plays.
Shaquille O’Neal didn’t see it.
James scored 33 points and made an incredible, soaring block on
Brandon Roy in the final seconds, and Anderson Varejao had a
season-high 22 as the Cleveland Cavaliers rebounded from
consecutive sloppy road losses with a 104-99 win over the hobbled
Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night.
James added seven assists, seven rebounds and swatted Roy’s shot
with the Cavs holding on late. Portland’s star tried to drop in a
floater, but James came across the lane and rejected his shot, his
fingers going above the backboard square – 12 feet off the floor –
to send it into the seats.
“I didn’t see where the ball went,” James said. “It’s still
rolling, that’s a good thing.”
What’s not so good is O’Neal leaving with a bruised left eye in
the third quarter. Cleveland’s center got poked by Portland’s Joel
Przybilla while going up for a shot. He was taken to the Cleveland
Clinic after the game for precautionary tests and is expected to
travel with the team to Oklahoma City on Saturday.
O’Neal finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds and Varejao added
10 boards for Cleveland, which found itself trailing 54-45 after an
uninspired first half. At the break, an angry coach Mike Brown laid
into his players and they came out with much more intensity.
“It was much needed,” guard Mo Williams said of Brown’s fiery
pep talk. “We were lackadaisical. We weren’t playing the way we
should. He said the right things and got our motors going.”
Roy scored 23, LaMarcus Aldridge 22 and Andre Miller 20 for the
Blazers, who dressed just nine players because of injuries and need
to play better.
“We have to or we’ll get beat by 30,” Roy said. “We have no
room for error. At the beginning of the season, we thought we did.
Now if we relax for one quarter, we can get blown out by any
Varejao and Williams, who added 10 assists, were gametime
decisions after suffering stomach-flu symptoms earlier in the day.
And for a good portion of the first three quarters, the Cavaliers
But with James on the bench, Cleveland opened the fourth with an
8-2 spurt that seemed to put the Cavaliers in control. Cleveland
eventually opened a 93-87 lead on Anthony Parker’s 3-pointer, but
the Trail Blazers wouldn’t go away.
Portland was within five when Roy tossed up his runner in the
lane that James turned away with perhaps his defensive highlight of
“I saw him coming at the last minute, but I thought I got it
close enough to the rim,” said Roy, who didn’t contest if it was
goaltending. “No call, so it was a good block.”
Blazers interim coach Dean Demopoulos wasn’t so sure James had
gotten the ball on the way up.
“I’ll have to check the film,” he said, smiling. “I don’t
make enough money get to fined, man.”
Even after James’ defensive gem, the Blazers closed to 101-97 on
Aldridge’s 3-pointer and pulled within two when Roy sneaked behind
James on the baseline, stole the ball and made a layup with 12.2
“It was just miscommunication,” James said.
The Blazers were forced to foul and Williams and James combined
for three free throws in the last 10 seconds to ice it.
After giving up 31 points to Portland in the second quarter, the
Cavs held the Blazers to 45 points in the second half.
James scored 14 – matching his total for the first half – during
a back-and-forth third quarter.
Early in the period, James was the only Cavaliers player doing
much of anything on offense and the Blazers took a 10-point lead on
Roy’s 3-pointer. But O’Neal began asserting himself down low like
the Shaq of old and scored nine points during a 15-2 run that put
Cleveland back in front.
On one possession, O’Neal grabbed a loose ball, powered through
two defenders and shook the backboard with a powerful dunk.
This has been a tough week for the injury-ravaged Trail Blazers,
who spent nearly as much time on the operating table as on the
Center Greg Oden underwent surgery on Dec. 6 to repair a left
patella fracture, which will sideline him for the remainder of the
season. The next day, coach Nate McMillan had surgery on his
ruptured Achilles’ tendon and Rudy Fernandez underwent a procedure
to alleviate pain in his right leg.
NOTES: Demopoulos is serving as head coach during McMillan’s
absence. Although he is not with the team, Portland’s wins and
losses will be credited to McMillan, not Demopoulos. … Browns
star Josh Cribbs received a huge ovation from the crowd, one night
after he led Cleveland to an upset over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
… Cavs G Daniel Gibson sat out with a sprained right pinkie he
injured at Houston. … Cleveland’s reserves contributed 35 points
and 17 rebounds. In the past seven games, the Cavs’ backups are
averaging 38.6 points and 19.6 rebounds.