The Cleveland Cavaliers and Portland Trail Blazers have experienced rough, fatiguing weeks heading into tonight's contest. We all know how the Cavs handled a back-to-back road trip this weekend, losing to the New Orleans Pelicans in overtime on Friday, and then basically punting their game against the Miami Heat on Saturday to fall to 13-7 on the season. The Blazers, meanwhile, are in the middle of a Midwest road trip, and they've had some taxing games as well, needing a furious comeback to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday, and then falling in a nail-biter to the Milwaukee Bucks last night. Both teams come into tonight after emotionally draining stretches of their schedules, and that could make for a very interesting battle.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Portland Trail Blazers
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Quicken Loans Arena - Cleveland, Ohio
TV Alert: The game will be on Fox Sports Ohio, instead of the previously scheduled NBA TV listing.
Enemy Blog: Blazer's Edge
Music: Peter Bjorn and John - "Nothing to Worry About"
Things to Watch For:
- Portland's done a fantastic job of maintaining their offensive efficiency even after losing four starters from last year's squad. Portland sits right behind Cleveland in offensive efficiency at 103.2 points per 100 possessions, and Terry Stotts has plugged in guys like Mason Plumlee and C.J. McCollum into larger roles to maintain an offense built around three-pointers and elite rebounding. The Cavs have been a solid defense this season, and their defense hasn't been the primary issue in this three-game losing streak. The Cavs' strengths defensively have been rebounding and closing out on three-point shooters, so this side of the ball should feature the most interesting play of the night.
- On the other side of the ball, the Cavs should get a chance to break out of the terrible funk they've been in for the last three games. Only the Philadelphia 76ers have had a worse offense than the Cavs over the past three games, and they've had a lot of trouble getting shots to fall against some iffy defenses. Portland doesn't present much of a challenge on that front, as they have the league's 20th-ranked defense and don't create much havoc, coming in at 28th in turnovers forced per game and averaging just 13 combined steals and blocks. It's been a few games now, but maybe THIS is the game where the Cavs' offense gets back into rhythm.
- It'll be interesting to see how LeBron James fairs tonight. Al-Farouq Aminu's on LeBron duty tonight, and he's got the ability to throw a wrench in LeBron's offensive performance. Aminu allows 0.68 points per possession defending isolations this year, good for the 67th percentile in the league, and opponents are shooting 7.9 percent below their average with him defending three-point attempts. Granted, if there's anyone in the league who can make a good defender insignificant, it's LeBron, but it still is worth mentioning that LeBron probably will have to work a bit tonight.
- Given how John Wall and Jrue Holiday have performed against the Cavs in the last week, really nervous that Damian Lillard goes insane tonight.
- Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert won't return tonight, but they will be traveling with the team to Orlando on Friday. Hopefully at least one debuts then, but the Cavs could really use both tonight. Kyrie owns Portland, and Shumpert's ability to defend the perimeter would really help against a Blazers squad that boasts the surprisingly threatening backcourt trio of Lillard, C.J. McCollum, and Allen Crabbe. Mo Williams, Matthew Dellavedova, and J.R. Smith will have their hands full once again.