Cavs are 2-1 on their road trip and a mere 15 made 3-pointers away from being 3-0, so lets bring the noise in Portland!
When I wrote this steaming pile of crap as a preview to their first match up this season I tried to figure out what was making Portland such a successful team, and highlighted how the Blazers were on the road playing their 3rd game in 4 nights. In the most entertaining loss the Cavs have played in this season they edged us out with a 3 pointer at the buzzer. Now the tables are turned and Portland is at home with a lot of rest and the Cavs are on the road playing their 3rd game in 4 nights, how can they win against one of the best teams in the league?
The first piece of good news is that after starting out the season virtually unbeatable at 25-4 the TBs have hit a bit of a bumpy patch recently gong 4-4 in their last 8. Even more encouraging for a team hoping to steal a win is that 5 of their last 9 wins have been by 4 pts or less, this makes them a beatable team. Even some of the putrid teams in the league have been able to put up a fight with the Celtics, losers of 7 straight going into the game and 3 by double digits, having a chance to cut the lead to 3 or 4 with ~30 seconds to go in the game. They also lost a game to the then hot 76ers. Since that game Philly has lost 4 in a row, and all 4 by 10 points or more.
While the Cavs can't count on the Blazers missing 19 of 22 3 pointers like they did in their loss to Philly there are some things that they can do to force a close game. As with the last time these teams met it is about offensive rebounding and turnovers. The Celtics grabbed 20 boards on that side of the court and only had 9 turnovers. Unfortunately for them they only force 11 turnovers themselves and gave up 20 offensive rebounds as well.
Coming into their 3rd game in 4 nights, and in the middle of a long road trip the Cavs will also need some energy off the bench. They will need to find a spark outside of their front 8 in the rotation, perhaps giving mins to Karasev or Bennett in the first half along with 4 starters will help rest their key members for the late game situations. Of particular importance though will be Tyler Zeller and his boxing out of Joel Freeland. He absolutely cannot be allowed to grab uncontested offensive boards like he did in Cleveland.
I am cautiously optimistic that this team will show up and having Deng defensively can help keep the Cavs competitive in this one.