Trail Blazers-Cavaliers Preview
LaMarcus Aldridge’s surprising return couldn’t have come at a better time for the Portland Trail Blazers, who picked up a needed win over a tough Eastern Conference opponent last time out.
Another victory could be hard to come by against LeBron James and a surging Cleveland Cavaliers team looking to exact some revenge.
After their last game was postponed, the visiting Trail Blazers try to snap the Cavaliers’ seven-game winning streak Wednesday night.
Portland (32-13) had dropped five of six – with the last two defeats coming without Aldridge due to a thumb injury – before beating Washington 103-96 on Saturday. Aldridge’s injury was expected to keep him out for six to eight weeks, but he decided to put off surgery and returned to score 26 points against the Wizards.
"I’m not into the rah-rah story," said Aldridge, one of just three players averaging at least 23.0 points and 10.0 rebounds. "I just wanted to come back and play. … It was hurting a little but it wasn’t too much. I’ll just keep going until I feel like I’m not playing as good as I can, or I can’t take it."
Aldridge has some additional time to recover from his first game back after Monday’s matchup at Brooklyn was rescheduled for April 6 due to heavy snow in the area.
"It’s not really going to feel better because it’s torn, so it’s good to not have competition for a couple of days and let it rest," he told the team’s official website. "I think we’re taking precautions that we need off the court to try to protect it. So as long as it doesn’t get any worse, we’ll be OK."
The Cavaliers (26-20) return home looking to match their longest run of the season after winning their last seven by an average of 13.8 points. Kyrie Irving matched a season high with 38 points and James scored 32 in Tuesday’s 103-95 victory at Detroit, avenging a 103-80 home loss to the Pistons on Dec. 28.
"That’s the luxury of playing with a great player like LeBron," said Irving, whose team won eight in a row Nov. 24-Dec. 9. "When he’s on the floor, you know there are going to be things opened up for the rest of you."
James is expected to be fine after taking a hard fall during the final seconds of the third quarter.
Much of the Cavs’ recent success can be attributed to James, who’s averaging 30.5 points over eight games since returning from knee and back issues. Cleveland has won 20 of its last 25 with James on the court.
James is averaging 30.5 points in 13 games against Portland since 2007-08 for his second-highest mark against any team during that span. However, the four-time league MVP was limited to 11 – his lowest regular-season display since December 2008 – in this season’s first matchup, a 101-82 road loss on Nov. 4.
Damian Lillard led the way for the Blazers with 27 points, raising his average to 25.6 in five career games against Cleveland. Portland has taken seven of eight in the series, including three straight road matchups while averaging 116.0 points.
Lillard has scored at least 20 points in a season-high six straight games, but he’s shooting 33.0 percent in the last five.
Irving is averaging 24.6 points on 54.6 percent shooting – including 20 of 37 from 3-point range – during Cleveland’s winning streak. Like James, however, he also struggled in the first matchup, scoring nine on 3-of-17 shooting.
Portland’s Nicolas Batum could return after sitting out Saturday with a strained right wrist that’s been nagging him for most of the season.