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
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
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,
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
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.