Cavaliers hold off Trail Blazers 107-104
BY STONE LEXINGTON
CAVALIERS BEAT WRITER
(CLEVELAND, OH) - The Portland Trail Blazers arrived in Cleveland on Wednesday night attempting to cool off the surging Cavaliers, but the home team made the biggest plays down the stretch to keep their winning ways going.
Cleveland entered Wednesday’s contest coming off a five-game road trip, during which the team finished 3-2 with wins over Denver, the Los Angeles Clippers and Charlotte Hornets. During the trip, the Cavs held their opponents to 98 points per game and forced 90 turnovers (18.0 turnovers per game). Defense was the catalyst for the Cavs again on Wednesday, as Cleveland topped Portland 107-104 in Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse to push their record to 5-4 this season.
“I think it’s giving us confidence,” Cavs point guard Darius Garland said of the team finding ways to win games. “It’s showing our group that we can beat really good teams in this league, especially off this road trip. I think that’s brining a lot of confidence into us. We just got to get better every day. We just got to go watch this film and pick out the parts that we didn’t like and the things that we didn’t do well and just try to get better at those.”
The Blazers, which fell to 3-5 this season, entered the Fieldhouse averaging 112 points per game. The Cavs, though, found ways to get crucial stops down the stretch in the first of two meetings with the Blazers this season. They also found a way to come out on top without three of their key rotation players in Lauri Markkanen (health and safety protocols), Kevin Love (health and safety protocols) and Isaac Okoro (hamstring injury) not in uniform.
The Cavs led by 11 after a Cedi Osman three-pointer with 11:20 remaining in the fourth quarter, but the Blazers wouldn’t go away. Back-to-back three pointers by Robert Covington and Anfernee Simons brought Portland within a five-point deficit less than a minute later, and when Canton, Ohio native CJ McCollum sank a trey with 8:06 to play, Portland trailed by a single digit, 93-92.
Portland superstar Damian Lillard, who finished with 26 points on 27 shots, was fouled converting a layup with 31 seconds to play and added a successful free throw. The Blazers trailed by three, and Cavs guard Collin Sexton missed a three-pointer on the next possession. Portland claimed the rebound on Sexton’s miss, and Lillard had an opportunity to tie the game at the end of regulation. However, with Cavs center Jarrett Allen guarding closely, Lillard’s three-point attempt with seconds remaining bounced off the rim and time ran out.
“We all know Dame is one helluva three-point shooter, especially to close games in playoffs and tough situations,” Allen said. “So, I just tried to crowd him as much as I can and make him have to shoot the rainbow shot over me.”
What a difference a season makes for the young Cavaliers, as it was just a season ago they lost a game to Portland by 36 points. Thus far this season, it seems like this Cavs team, which starts five players 24 years old or younger, is learning how to win ball games.
Six Cavaliers finished in double-figures, led by Jarrett Allen’s 24 points, 17 rebounds and four assists. Sexton, who leads the Cavs in scoring this season, scored 21 points, while Garland totaled 19 points and 10 assists.
Cavs rookie forward Evan Mobley finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds, while also having a big block against Lillard with 1:21 to play as the All-Star guard tried to take the first-year big man off the dribble one-on-one. Mobley recorded his fourth double-double already this season, which leads all rookies.
“We have two great defenders down there (in the paint), I’m going to say he’s better than me at defending,” Allen said of Mobley. “He’s a great defender, he can guard one through five, move his feet. He’s been amazing at blocking shots and protecting the rim.”
It was a complete team effort for the Cavs against Portland, as they received key contributions from unlikely heroes. Second-year guard Dylan Windler received significant minutes for only the second time this season, but he produced his best outing. In 20 minutes off the bench, he made four of his five shots, including all three of his three-point attempts, and finished with 13 points and three assists. Meanwhile, Cedi Osman has been hot from beyond the three-point arc this season and drained four more against the Blazers, finishing with 12 points.
“They were huge, and we talked about it beforehand, where it wasn’t going to be one person expected to pick up for all those guys that are missing,” Bickerstaff said. “Cedi contributed and Dylan contributed, Dean (Wade) contributed. All those guys who had lesser roles when we’re healthy all contributed and played within themselves.”
With Cleveland Browns rookie cornerback Greg Newsome II and Los Angeles Dodgers former MVP Mookie Betts sitting courtside, the Cavs defense was a bit shaky in the first quarter. Portland opened the game with back-to-back three-pointers that gave the Trail Blazers a 6-0 lead and forced Bickerstaff to call an early timeout less than a minute into the game. The Cavs trailed 26-23 when the first quarter ended, but they made their run in the second quarter.
Windler drained back-to-back three-pointers in the opening moments of the second quarter that gave Cleveland its first lead of the night, 29-26. The Cavs went on to score 37 points in the second quarter and led by as many as 12 points in the period, ultimately taking a 60-53 lead into halftime. Windler made all three of his attempts from beyond the arc in the quarter, and Sexton added 10 points in the frame.
For the Blazers, McCollum finished with 21 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Norman Powell chipped-in 23 points. Portland will look to get back on track at home against the Indiana Pacers on Friday.
The Cavs will go for their sixth win in eight games in Toronto against the Raptors on Friday.
POSTED 11/04/2021 00:55