A Look at the Cavaliers
Stop me if you've already figured this out, but the Cavs are pretty good. For a contender, that is. If you like that kind of thing. Personally I prefer up-and-coming teams, the kind that are out to prove themselves every night, the kind that everybody else underestimates but who turn out to be really good. But, you know, if you like the obvious, superstar-driven, 54-game winning, ring-chasing kind of team I guess I can see why the Cavaliers would be attractive.
The most striking thing about the Cavs this year is their defense. They're 2nd in the league in field goal percentage allowed, 1st in three-point percentage allowed, and 7th in free throw attempts allowed. That doesn't leave a lot of space for opponents to score points. As a matter of fact the Cavs are 1st overall (in a virtual tie with Boston and Orlando) in defensive efficiency.
Then, to the surprise of absolutely nobody, while the defense holds you down LeBron beats you up. King James is averaging a cool 28.7 ppg this season. Oh...and he's grabbing 7.5 rebounds as well. Oh...and don't forget his 7.2 assists. (He dropped 14 dimes on the Blazers the last time these two teams met, but who's counting?) Oh...and did I mention he's shooting 49% from the floor? Or that he's drawing 9.5 foul shots per game? Or that he can turn bird doo into cotton candy using only the power of his mind? Well, OK, that last part is only rumor...but think about that the next time the arena vendor comes by.
Mo Williams is still proving an apt sidekick for His Majesty. He's shooting 47% from the floor (in case you're wondering these are high numbers for perimeter players) and 44% from the three-point arc to the tune of 18.1 ppg.
Delonte West fills the shooting guard role, Anderson Varejao plays power forward, and our old friend Zydrunas Ilgauskas mans the middle.
The Cavaliers' bench is full of familiar names, but two of them--Ben Wallace and Wally Szczerbiak--are out for this game. That leaves Daniel Gibson, Joe Smith, and Sasha Pavlovic as the main options.
The thing is, many of these guys have been Blazer Killers at one time or another. It's not a nice lineup for us to face.
The Cavaliers are great shooters, great and overly-willing three-point shooters, opportunistic defenders, and take good care of the ball. About the only things they're average at are rebounding and foul shooting.
This is every bit as daunting as going up against the L*kers or Celtics. Maybe more so because we just don't have anyone to match up with LeBron's combination of size and quickness. He's toyed with us in the past. Yet the game in Portland in January was reasonably close. But this is the road and the second of a back-to-back for Portland. Plus we may be without both starting forwards. If this got any uglier we'd have to call Dr. Rey. But even he might not be able to save us now.
Keys to the Game
You want logical reasons why the Blazers could or should win? OK...how's this? Weird things happen sometimes.
If Portland does pull it off it'll almost certainly involve some rebounding, some three-point shots hit, and a fair about of Roy-Oden-Outlawism. But even being optimistic you have to say that the Blazers' big shot is coming out hard and hoping the Cavaliers have an off-night. It does happen sometimes.
Even with the injuries and bad matchups the Blazers do have a chance to do something pretty special here. Not beating the Cavaliers, per se. Portland has already conquered the L*kers and Boston so it's not like a win against this level of team would be a complete revelation. But having won two in a row in dominant fashion on the road the Blazers now have a chance to mark off a devastating signature win. Claiming three in a row on the road at all would be an amazing step for this team. Claiming the third like this would be a statement and a half...a real confidence boost as well. Plus you then set up the opportunity to go 4-1 on this trip. It's almost certainly not going to happen, but the team should get a semi-tingly feeling coming into this game anyway. I do.
Let's hope it lasts more than 2 minutes into the game.
Check out the Cavaliers talk over at FeartheSword.
Enter tonight's Jersey Contest form here.