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
“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
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
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
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.