The Cavaliers are in the middle of a dip in their performance - they’ve lost three in a row and haven’t looked particularly sharp at all since their loss to the Warriors on Christmas. Well, the cavalry is coming - Isaiah Thomas is set to make his debut for the team against the Blazers, and we’ll finally start to see how he’ll fit alongside the rest of the roster. Thomas will be on a minutes limit and come off the bench, but we’ll at least get a good look at him in wine and gold.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (24-12) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (19-17)
When: 7 p.m. ET
Where: Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH
Enemy Blog: Blazer’s Edge
TV: Fox Sports Ohio, NBA TV
Online: Fox Sports Go
Cavs injuries: Derrick Rose (OUT - ankle), Iman Shumpert (OUT - left knee), Kevin Love (QUESTIONABLE - illness)
Blazers injuries: N/A
Three keys to the game:
- All eyes will be on Isaiah Thomas in this one, and rightfully so. He’s coming off the bench and will be on a minutes limit, but it’s fair to be interested in his level of explosiveness coming off the hip injury. Cavs fans aren’t always the most patient with players trying to work their way up to speed, so it would likely be smart to give Thomas some leeway early on.
- The Cavaliers could be without Kevin Love in this game as he battles an illness, and it’ll be interesting as to who would replace him in the lineup. Tristan Thompson is probably better equipped to battle with Jusuf Nurkic in the paint, but Channing Frye adds the shooting that the starting unit needs to thrive offensively. If I had to guess, I imagine Frye would get the nod.
- Damian Lillard is returning for Portland after missing the last five games, and the Blazers starting backcourt should give the Cavs fits. The Cavs can’t stop anybody in the first place, and the Lillard-C.J. McCollum combo is particularly deadly. Look for both guards to have big nights as J.R. Smith and Jose Calderon get cooked yet again.
How aggressive will Isaiah Thomas be against Lillard? We know he’s trying to incorporate himself into a new team and system, but playing all out is pretty much the only way he’s ever played. A tentative Thomas is a limited one - we’ll see if he’s comfortable attacking the way we’re used to seeing.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction
The Cavaliers aren’t playing well and they’ll be trying to integrate a new piece. This could get ugly fairly quickly, but they should be able to be competitive in a loss. Cavs 109, Blazers 119.