Cavaliers young duo defeats Portland's dynamic duo 110-104  
   BY STONE LEXINGTON
 CAVALIERS BEAT WRITER
(CLEVELAND, OH) - When fans and members of the Cleveland Cavaliers organization envision what their young backcourt can ultimately become, it isn’t unnatural to immediately think of one of the NBA’s most dynamic duos.

Cavs rookie point guard Darius Garland and second-year shooting guard Colin Sexton naturally draw plenty of comparisons to Portland Trail Blazers All-Star duo Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, mostly because of their budding talent and height. Lillard and McCollum are listed at 6-foot-3 apiece, while Sexton and Garland are both listed at 6-foot-1, two of the smaller backcourts in the league.

If the Cavs want to achieve any measure of the success the Blazers have the past few years, which includes a Conference championship appearance, their young guards will have to play near or at the level of their counterpart backcourt from Saturday night.

The Cavs met the Blazers in Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on Saturday and escaped with a 110-104 victory, led by the superb play of Jordan Clarkson and Tristan Thompson. Clarkson led all scorers with 28 points, while Thompson chipped-in 25 points and nine rebounds.

“We’ve got a team that I’ve been watching from a far in Portland for years,” Cavs head coach John Beilein said. “I love the way they play. They just have had great success down a few players with their injuries.

“They just have two of the finest guards that play the right way all the time.”

While Lillard and McCollum are two of the better guards in the league, the duo wasn’t as effective as they’ve become accustomed to on Saturday. Lillard, who has battled back spasms of late, finished with 23 points on 7-of-20 shooting from the field. McCollum totaled 20 points six rebounds and five assists in 40 minutes.

The Cavs (5-11) and Blazers (5-12) entered the night as two of the worst teams in the league, and it showed early in Saturday’s matchup. The first quarter was a struggle for both sides, as neither team shot above 37 percent en route to a 19-19 tie at the end of the period.

Sexton and Thompson were the only two Cavaliers that scored before nine minutes had passed in the first quarter, and the shooting for both sides didn’t get much better before halftime. The Cavs led 49-42 at the half, shooting 39 percent to Portland’s 33 percent.

It didn’t help that the Cavs were without leading scorer and rebounder Kevin Love, who sat out the game because of a lower back contusion. The Cavs, however, kept the momentum flowing into the second half, taking their largest lead of the night, 61-46, on a Cedi Osman three-pointer with 8:13 remaining in the period. Portland kept the contest close throughout the rest of the way, but never seriously challenged the Cavs down the stretch.

Garland totaled nine points against Portland, while Sexton finished with 19 points and four rebounds. And while Lillard may have been a bit hampered on Saturday, it is undeniable that Sexton contributed to that output.

“It’s all a growth area and where he is on that spectrum,” Beilein said of Sexton’s defensive development. “It’s going to go up and down for a while, but I like his effort area and his ability to continue to want to be coached and get better there. He’s got a sense of purpose to his defense…You want to play against the best, well here you go.”

In place of Love, Larry Nance Jr. recored a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds. But with Dame and CJ in the building, Cavs fans may have gotten a glimpse of what their future backcourt could look like.

“Watching them play, they have a great combination of high IQ basketball,” Beilein said of Lillard and McCollum. “They can both score, so can our two guys score. What they add to it right now that guys will become, high IQ players who are gritty as hell.

“They get after it. When you’re small, you have to play with high IQ and you have to play with incredible grit. Portland has been so successful during their time there because of that combination.”

The Cavs will host the Brooklyn Nets on Monday.
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​POSTED 11/23/2019 22:49
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