It was a tale of two halves, as the Cleveland Cavaliers dealt with a massive amount of momentum from the Portland Trail Blazers' during the first two quarters, before battling back after the break, shedding their sluggish defensive mindset and ultimately winning 105-100. LeBron led the Cavs with 33 points and 10 rebounds, with Kevin Love contributing 18 points (but only four rebounds) and Matthew Dellavedova also having a solid game, adding 17 points, a few of which came from clutch threes. Damian Lillard didn’t make life easy on the Cavs, as he finished with 33 points.
The Blazers’ offense executed their game plan right away, with their guards — Lillard and C.J. McCollum finding space and knocking down shots, as Cleveland’s perimeter defenders got lost early and often and allowed a team of unorganized gunners to take command of the pace. On the offensive end, The Cavs moved the ball well early, but failed to convert — or draw fouls — at the rim, letting a lot of easy points evaporate. And, strangely, because of what seemed to be a mixture of frustration and rotation, the offense quickly became stagnant, settling for a lot of low percentage jumpers and awkward floaters. Lillard led the Blazers with 12, and Delly led the Cavs with seven, as the first quarter winded down, 25-17 Blazers.
At the beginning of the second, the Blazers capitalized on their momentum and continued to let it fly. After finding themselves down 50-33 with 2:30 left in the quarter, the Cavs cut into the deficit by jumping out in transition and bringing the game within single digits, as the half ended 56-47 Blazers, who had a red-hot half, shooting 59 percent from the field and 60 percent from three. McCollum had a particularly efficient half, scoring 15 (6-8 FG) and Lillard wasn’t far behind with 14 (6-12 FG). LeBron contributed 15 points (11 in the second quarter) and led a charge that made the game reasonable, but the ultimate failure was the defenses inability to guard the pick and roll, allowing not only easy looks at the rim, but it also gave space and confidence to their streaky shooters.
The Cavs looked like a completely different team coming out of halftime, especially defensively, as they clamped down on Portland’s shooters — who, as expected, when pressured, made bad decisions — and grabbed seven steals in the third. With just over four minutes left in the quarter, the Cavs took their first lead since the game started out 4-2, due to getting to the free throw line, getting good looks in the paint and hitting open threes. The Cavs finished the third with the lead — 76-75.
And the Cavs never really looked back, holding the Blazers to 42.5 percent on the floor and 31.3 percent from three during the second half, winning the game 105-100. Fourth-quarter LeBron has been phenomenal lately and tonight was no different, as he dropped 14 points and pulled down 5 rebounds in the final quarter. He’s at this interesting crossroads of a still high level of athleticism, Tim Duncan-like footwork and an invaluable basketball IQ, that allows to get the shot he wants at will. Although, it’s not really helping the whole keeping his minutes lower this season thing… but it’s a lot of fun to watch.