Trail Blazers-Cavaliers Preview

The Cleveland Cavaliers suddenly find themselves on a two-game

losing streak against Western Conference opponents after winning

their previous 13, but both of those came away from Quicken Loans

Arena.

The Portland Trail Blazers know rather well they’re much tougher

to beat at home.

LeBron James has had a triple-double the last two times the

Cavaliers hosted Portland, and he’ll try to help Cleveland avoid a

rare three-game skid Friday night as it seeks a seventh straight

home win both overall and against the Trail Blazers.

The Cavaliers (15-7) won their final eight games against Western

opponents in 2008-09 and their first five this season, but that

streak was snapped Tuesday in a 111-109 overtime loss in

Memphis.

Twenty-one turnovers plagued Cleveland against the Grizzlies,

and they were a problem again Wednesday in Houston. The Cavaliers

gave it away 20 times against the Rockets in a 95-85 loss.

“You have to take pride in avoiding them and we didn’t. We just

can’t have unforced turnovers,” said James, who had 27 points but

committed five turnovers for the third straight game. “We needed to

play with a sense of urgency earlier than we did.”

Cleveland hasn’t lost three straight since March 22-29,

2008.

James is averaging a career-high 3.8 turnovers, though he’s also

dish out a career-best 8.2 assists per game, and Cleveland is at

its best when he’s getting his teammates involved. The Cavaliers

are 9-2 when he has at least nine assists, and 7-1 when he attempts

17 shots or fewer.

The production of point guard Mo Williams, Cleveland’s

second-leading scorer at 16.8 points per game, has also been

consequential to the Cavaliers’ success. Cleveland is 11-2 if

Williams hits 40 percent of his shots and 13-3 when he scores 12

points or more.

Williams averaged 22.5 points as the Cavaliers swept Portland

(14-9) last season – pouring in 33 in a 104-98 win at the Rose

Garden on Jan. 21 – but James has been Cleveland’s catalyst against

the Blazers at home. The reigning MVP has averaged 27.7 points in

leading the Cavaliers to a 6-0 record during his career when

Portland visits, finishing with 26 points, 11 rebounds and 10

assists in a 97-92 overtime victory March 19.

Three of James’ 25 career triple-doubles have come against the

Blazers.

Portland, meanwhile, has had to lean even more on its

multitalented All-Star recently with its lineup depleted by injury.

The Blazers lost Rudy Fernandez (sciatic pain), Greg Oden (knee)

and even coach Nate McMillan to a ruptured Achilles’ last week, and

had lost four of five heading to Indiana on Wednesday.

Brandon Roy had averaged 25.0 points during that rough patch,

but another big effort against the Pacers paid off. The 2007 rookie

of the year had 29 points, seven rebounds and five assists in

lifting Portland to a 101-92 win.

“I could almost fall asleep when (Roy’s) got the ball,” said

assistant Dean Demopoulos, who’s assuming head coaching duties

while McMillan recovers. “That’s how comfortable I feel with him.

He always comes through.”

Like the Cavaliers’ success when James involves his teammates

more, the Blazers don’t typically thrive on Roy’s big games –

they’re 3-5 when he scores 25 points or more.

Roy has averaged 19.4 points on 40.5 percent shooting in his

career against Cleveland.

Portland’s biggest advantage may be up front, where Shaquille

O’Neal has been battling foul trouble lately and J.J. Hickson has

averaged just 2.9 points in the Cavaliers’ seven losses.

Hickson and reserve Anderson Varejao will likely draw duty on

Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge, who’s averaged 23.0 points in his

last two games against the Cavaliers.