Trail Blazers-Cavaliers Preview

The Portland Trail Blazers’ talented young point guard is

playing really well.

The Cleveland Cavaliers’ talented young point guard may be

playing even better.

Damian Lillard leads the Trail Blazers into Cleveland against

Kyrie Irving and the Cavaliers on Tuesday night.

Irving was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week on Monday

after averaging 29.0 points and 6.3 assists while shooting 50.8

percent in three games last week. Irving also averaged 2.3 steals,

shot 9 for 22 (40.9 percent) from 3-point range and made 14 of 15

free throws.

“He deserves it. He’s put up some big numbers for us, and he was

aggressive especially at the right times for us,” coach Mike Brown

said. “He can get a lot of accolades because he has the chance to

be that good. He has special talents.”

Squaring off with Irving will be Lillard, who is coming off a

special performance of his own. Lillard sank a fadeaway jumper as

time expired to give Portland (21-4) a 111-109 overtime victory at

Detroit on Sunday.

“It felt good,” said Lillard, who scored 23 points and handed

out seven assists as Portland won its fourth straight. “I had a lot

of shots that I let go that felt good that didn’t fall. When that

one went in, I was like ‘thank you.’ I’m happy the shot went

in.”

The point guards have faced off only once before. Irving had 31

points while Lillard was held to 13 on 3-of-9 shooting in

Cleveland’s 93-88 win at Portland on Jan. 16 that ended a four-game

skid in the series.

However, this season’s Portland team is much deeper and talented

than last year’s version. The Trail Blazers have the best record in

the West thanks to an efficient, high-scoring offense. Portland

averages 107.9 points and shoots 45.9 percent, both of which rank

near the top of the NBA.

Power forward LaMarcus Aldridge was just named the West’s player

of the week for the third time this season after averaging 25.5

points in the Blazers’ four wins last week.

He also tied a season high with three blocks as Portland held

Detroit to 15 in the fourth quarter after allowing 33 in the third

to fall behind by 11.

“I’m really impressed with what we can do defensively when we

pick it up,” center Robin Lopez said. “We haven’t peaked, because

we still wait until the motivation is there, but when we needed it,

we stepped up.”

The Cavaliers (9-14), who had a three-game win streak snapped

with a 114-107 loss at Miami on Saturday, know they will have their

hands full.

Outside of Irving, nobody on the roster scores more than 14.5

points per game, and the Cavaliers average 94.4 points. With so

many young players, they see the Trail Blazers as a team they would

like to one day become.

“If you look at their roster, they have veteran guys or guys in

their prime. They have very few young guys they are looking to run

or lead the ship,” Brown said. “So they have a lot of veteran

players who know how to play the game the right way on both ends of

the floor.”

Portland has won its first 10 games of a season against the

Eastern Conference for the second time in franchise history,

matching the mark from 1990-91.