Cavaliers make epic comeback, but fall short 123-110 
BY STONE LEXINGTON
CAVALIERS BEAT WRITER
(CLEVELAND, OH) - Entering Monday night’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers, the Cleveland Cavaliers were in the midst of their best stretch of the season. They had won three of their previous four games, and their best player, Kevin Love, had just come off the injury report. The Cavs’ recent good form, however, may not have been all that it seemed.

The three previously mentioned victories all came against teams that reside at or near the bottom of the league. The win first came two weeks ago at home against the lowly New York Knicks, which the Cavs followed with a narrow triple-overtime loss to the surging Brooklyn Nets. Cleveland then picked up back-to-back wins against the Phoenix Suns and Memphis Grizzlies, two teams with high lottery aspirations.

On Monday, though, the Cavs hosted a Blazers team that resides in the top four of the loaded Western Conference. Facing a much better team than the three opponents they accumulated their most recent wins against, the Cavs didn’t fare as well against the step up in competition. Portland jumped out to an enormous lead and held off a Cavs comeback attempt en route to a 123-110 victory in Quicken Loans Arena.

“I thought we did a good job as far as fighting back, but you have to exert a lot of energy, particularly against a good defensive team and a team that’s as good as they are offensively,” Cavs head coach Larry Drew said.

Less than seven minutes into the game, the Cavs were down 20-5 and trailed 29-18 when the first quarter ended. Matters didn’t get much better for Cleveland in the second quarter, as the Blazers only increased their large lead.

When Portland shooting guard C.J. McCollum sank the Blazers’ 10th three-pointer of the first half with 3:59 remaining until halftime, the Blazers had secured a 56-38 lead. McCollum, a Canton, Ohio native, was outstanding for Portland in the first half, scoring 22 points.

Portland’s three-point barrage wasn’t over, as forward Maurice Harkless splashed a triple as the horn sounded the conclusion of the first half. Harkless’ trey, Portland’s 11th of the first half, gave the Blazers a 71-48 halftime lead.

“Obviously, they’re tremendous scorers,” Drew said of the Portland backcourt combination of Damian Lillard and McCollum. “They can change the game. They can make big shots.

“Either guy can have not a big night but a huge night. In playing against a duo like this, you really have to make sure that you’re on point defensively and try to make it as tough as you possibly can for both guys. They’re going to score, they’re just that good.”

Someone in the Cavs locker room must have given a helluva halftime speech, because Cleveland put together a 36-17 third quarter to trail just 88-84 heading into the fourth. The Cavs trailed 105-102 with just under five minutes to play and it looked like they might complete the improbable comeback. But two Jusuf Nurkic free throws, followed by back-to-back Lillard and McCollum threes put Portland up 113-102 and the game out of reach.

“We fought back,” Drew said. “I’m pleased about that, but against good teams, you just can’t dig yourself in a hole as we did at the start of the game.”

McCollum finished with a game-high 35 points with seven rebounds, while Lillard contributed 21 points, eight assists and four rebounds.

Cedi Osman led Cleveland with 27 points and seven rebounds. Clarkson totaled 19 points and five rebounds.

After the tough loss to Portland, the Cavs will look to get back to their winning ways on Thursday in New York against the Knicks.
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​POSTED 02/25/2019 22:37
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