After a slow start, an energized Portland Trail Blazers easily defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers, 98-78.
The Blazers were led by a monster-esque LaMarcus Aldridge (28 points, 8 rebounds, 4 steals), Wesley Matthews (24 points) and Crash Wallace (16 points, 3 steals). Nicolas Batum also contributed more on the court than was represented in the box score. Portland's 26 assists, 14 steals and 5 blocks transformed a close game into a blowout.
In the first half, the Blazers seemed to suffer a hangover from the Phoenix Suns game. They played a bit slow on both offense and defense, and trudged though more outside shooting troubles. Luckily, their opponent was Cleveland, so they were still leading. Portland maintained a small lead throughout the first half, pushing it to a 7 point advantage by halftime. A bad sign: Only 4 free throw attempts at halftime.
Portland picked up their intensity as the third quarter began. Suddenly, an onslaught of steals led to break after break, and plenty of Cleveland fouls. Behind Aldridge's 14 third-quarter points, the Blazer lead quickly climbed to 16. However, a quick 5-point Cavs run cut the lead to 11 at the end of the third.
The Blazers continued their defensive intensity in the fourth quarter, quickly returning to a 15 point lead. Soon, Cleveland's energy waned. With 6 minutes left, Wesley Matthews stole the ball, dribbled behind his back, and passed to Wallace for a beautiful fast break dunk. Afterward, Byron Scott threw the white flag, and a happy crowd waited for the Chalupas that never arrived.
Read the box score here, then stay tuned for Dave's recap and Ben's media row report. The Blazers are back in action Tuesday night against the Clippers. -- Tim