Who? Cleveland Cavaliers (39-28) at Portland Trail Blazers (41-26)
When? 10 p.m.
Where? The Rose Garden (I refuse to call it anything else), Portland, Oregon
Where on my eyeballs? Fox Sports Ohio
Cavaliers status updates: Kevin Love (Hand - Out), Rodney Hood (Lower back strain - Questionable), Cedi Osman (Hip strain - Out), Tristan Thompson (Ankle - Out)
Blazers status updates: None (Must be nice)
The Blazers have been one of the better stories in the league this season. After toiling around mediocrity for the past few seasons, they have managed to find a rhythm and leap up the Western Conference standings.
While other teams have had to deal with injuries, the Blazers have been able to capitalize thanks to MVP-caliber play from Damian Lillard. Lillard is having the most efficient season of his career, while C.J. McCollum continues to excel as a second option alongside him.
Should Rodney Hood be available to play, this game would be a fantastic test of the defensive potential of the Hill/Hood back court. But either way, George Hill will need to set the tone defensively if the Cavs are going to have any chance of disrupting the Blazers offense.
But while offense is what the Blazers have been known for, it has been the team’s ascension defensively that has helped them climb the standings. Ranked just 21st in efficiency last season, Portland is currently the seventh best defense in the league to go along with their 13th ranked offense.
Cleveland has been stagnant on times offensively since the trades, as the constantly changing lineups have made developing continuity a challenge. History would also indicate that their defense will help Portland look better than usual offensively.
If the Cavs are going to have a chance in this game, they will need to take care of the ball and get out in transition whenever they get stops. They don’t have the chemistry needed to win a half-court game against this defense, so they will need to win the possession game and strike before the defense is set. Plus, as I previously mentioned, Hill will need to force Lillard to at least have a modest game offensively.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction:
A win here would be a pleasant surprise, but you can’t be disappointed if you set realistic expectations. Portland is a tough place to play and somewhere that the Cavs have traditionally struggled. Cavs lose 123-111.