The last time the Cleveland Cavaliers played in Portland the team performed a mutiny against then head coach David Blatt. In throwing the game, the team sent a message that they were no longer behind their head coach. It’s unlikely that things will get THAT weird this time around, although anything is possible when you’re dealing with the Cavaliers.
Who? Cleveland Cavaliers (28-9) at Portland Trail Blazers (17-23)
When? 10:30 p.m.
Rose Garden Moda Center, Portland, Oregon
Where on my eyeballs: ESPN
While a potential mutiny won’t be clear until after tip-off, there’s already been some weirdness as the Cavs traveled to the NBA’s Narnia. Due to snow, the Cavs flight was delayed and they got into Portland late Wednesday morning. The Blazers, who are also on the second night of a back to back also had to deal with these conditions as they flew in from Los Angeles. So expect some sloppiness from fatigued teams early on.
Things haven’t gone according to plan this season for Portland. While they have one of the league’s best back-courts, the team has been completely incapable of playing defense. Their summer additions of Festus Ezeli and Evan Turner have failed to help the team improve from last season. Ezeli will miss this entire season due to a knee injury, while the Blazers probably would rather have Turner sitting in a suit all year.
The first meeting between these teams this season resulted in a historic night for Kevin Love, who scored 34 points in the first quarter. Both Love and Kyrie Irving had one of their worst nights of the season against the Utah Jazz, so a meeting with the Blazers might be the perfect opportunity to bounce back.
One thing the Cavs will need to focus on is getting back to playing a more team-orientated style. For the season, the team averages 21.6 assists per game. However, against the Suns and Jazz the team only recorded 15 assists in each outing. The Cavs do have great individual talent and their ability to break players down one on one is a large part of what makes them great. That being said, they’re at the best when the isolation attempts come after moving the ball and when they stick to their offensive sets. It’s possible that the cold shooting against the Jazz caused them to trust the pass less than usual, but the team must continue to trust what has worked so well to this point in the season.
The Cavs must also make sure that they bring a more consistent effort when defending the pick and roll. The first half against Utah featured some of the most lazy pick and roll defense the team has displayed all season. While they adjusted in the second half, they cannot afford to let this Portland team get going in the same way. While the Blazers can’t defend, they are more than capable of hanging around in a shootout. The Cavs must prevent this from occurring and try to set the tone defensively early on.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction:
I predict a fairly sloppy game early on. With both teams on a second night of a back to back and arriving in Portland late, it’s hard to expect the best execution from either team. I think this will be a big game for Kevin Love on the offensive glass and expect him to put in work attacking a vulnerable Portland interior. Cavs win 104-95.