Cleveland Cavaliers (31-8) vs
Portland Trail Blazers (25-16)
Rose Garden, Portland, OR
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
10:00 PM EST
The Cavaliers will try to avoid losing 2 games in a row tonight when they face the Portland Trail Blazers, but it sure won’t be easy. The Lakers showed Monday night that without Zydrunas Ilgauskas in the lineup, big teams can just pound the ball down low on the Cavaliers all game long. Well, the Blazers have plenty of size on their team and don’t be surprised if they try to mimic the Lakers’ tactics. This game will be important for the Cavaliers as they don’t want to fall behind Orlando in the loss column, and they don’t want to start any kind of significant losing streak. Time will tell if the Cavaliers can bounce back from a loss without Delonte West as well as they bounced back from losses with him.
Projected Starting Lineups
-G Mo Williams (16.0 ppg, 3.9 apg, 0.8 spg, 16.29 PER)
-G Sasha Pavlovic (4.0 ppg, 0.9 apg, .411 3P%, 9.98 PER)
-F LeBron James (27.6 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 6.6 apg, 31.60 PER)
-F Ben Wallace (3.4 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.7 bpg, 13.86 PER)
-C Anderson Varejao (9.2 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 0.8 bpg, 15.68 PER)
Key Reserves: Daniel Gibson, Wally Szczerbiak, Lorenzen Wright, JJ Hickson
Injuries: Delonte West (out), Zydrunas Ilgauskas (out), Eric Snow (out)
Portland Trail Blazers:
-G Sergio Rodriguez (4.1 ppg, 3.4 apg, 0.7 spg, 12.01 PER)
-G Brandon Roy (22.3 ppg, 5.3 apg, .340 3P%, 24.13 PER)
-F Nicolas Batum (4.6 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.0 apg, 11.32 PER)
-F LaMarcus Aldridge (17.5 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 1.0 bpg, 18.90 PER)
-C Greg Oden (8.3 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.1 bpg, 16.35 PER)
Key Reserves: Travis Outloaw, Rudy Fernandez, Joel Przybilla, Channing Frye, Jerryd Bayless
Injuries: Steve Blake (out), Raef LaFrentz (out), Martell Webster (out)
Team Efficiency Statistics
-Off (100.6 ppg, 41.6 rpg, .476 FG%, .756 FT%, 20.1 apg, Eff-109.8, Rank-2)
-Def (89.4 ppg, 38.4 rpg, .422 FG%, Eff-96.8, Rank-1)
Portland Trail Blazers:
-Off (98.0 ppg, 41.1 rpg, .456 FG%, .765 FT%, 20.4 apg, Eff-109.6, Rank-3)
-Def (95.0 ppg, 36.5 rpg, .463 FG%, Eff-106.0, Rank-19)
This game will be a battle of 2 of the NBA’s absolute best offenses. The Cavaliers will be hurt by the losses of Big Z and Delonte, but the Blazers will be hurt by the absence of Steve Blake. Portland has played pretty well at home this year, with a 15-4 record, but they certainly haven’t been unbeatable there. Portland is 6-4 in their last ten, as they have been kind of just skating along through this stretch of the schedule.
For the Cavaliers, defense will be their key again. That’s where they can get an edge over Portland. The Blazers have been a very mediocre team on defense this year. The Cavaliers would benefit themselves by trying to drive at Oden early and see if they can get him in early foul trouble and limit his minutes, thus making it easier to score and get rebounds inside for the Cavaliers’ undersized big men.
Speaking of Oden, it seems like whenever they play, all eyes are on the 2nd year rookie whenever he plays, as people are curious to see how he looks. But he is not the heart and soul of the Blazers, nor is he the catalyst to their success on offense. Rather, those players would be Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge. Roy is an exceptional talent and Pavlovic will have his hands full trying to slow him down. Don’t be surprised to see LeBron guarding Roy a decent amount tonight, as Sasha’s size will allow him to be able to guard Batum and Outlaw.
Underneath, Aldridge is another dynamic talent. Steady as they come, Ben Wallace will need to try to be physical with him, because Aldridge’s athleticism may cause Ben some troubles. Not having Blake is a tough loss for Portland, and Sergio Garcia is a marginal PG right now, which should help Mo Williams on defense. The Cavaliers will need to watch out for Rudy Fernandez whenever he comes into the game, though, because he can catch on fire in a hurry and score points in bunches.
When the Cavaliers are on offense, they just need to keep working on the same things they’ve been working on. Keep moving the ball, get into the offense quickly as possible, and keep making the extra pass. They need to keep paying attention to their spacing, though, as that was one element of their offense that was particularly sloppy against the Lakers. If they stay within their offense, though, they should be able to put up some points on this Portland team, and the Cavaliers’ defense should be able to take it from there.
Which isn’t to say the Cavaliers should be expected to win this game. Portland is still one of the best teams in the NBA when they play their A game. They have the size to give the Cavaliers some trouble the same way the Lakers did, and the Cavaliers still haven’t proven that they are capable of playing consistently focused without 2 of their key players.
From The Outside Looking In
Next Game For The Cavaliers
Friday, January 23, 2009
10:30 PM EST
Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors