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Portland Trail Blazers Look to Save Road Trip As They Take on Cleveland

The Portland Trail Blazers have lost the first four games of their current seven-game road trip. Will tonight be the night they turn it around against a Cleveland Cavaliers team lacking star point guard Kyrie Irving?

Jared Wickerham

OK, Everybody! Who wants to see this year's hottest point guard prospect Damian Lillard take on last year's Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving in an epic battle for the ages?

Sweet! About 99% of you!

Now who wants to actually watch a Portland Trail Blazers-Cleveland Cavaliers game to do it? Oh. Well, that's still 45% or so.

Um, what if we told you that Irving is injured for this game and won't...hey, wait! Come back! Where are you... (sigh).

Hello, m'am. Who are you? Oh. Andy Varejao's mom. I see. Pleased to meet you. Hope your son does well tonight. Want some popcorn?

Audience or no audience, the Blazers and Cavaliers will meet in Quicken Loans Arena in a game starting at 4:30 p.m. Pacific. Coverage will be handled by CSNNW.

To say both of these teams are lackluster at the moment is an understatement. Luster showed up on their lawn once to retrieve its errant Frisbee and they chased it off with a shotgun. It ain't showing up again any time soon.

The Cavaliers have a couple excuses. First, as we just mentioned, their star point guard is out. Jeremy Pargo has put in a few nice efforts, including a 28-point outpouring versus Philadelphia, but it's not the same. Second, somebody in the NBA scheduling office got drunk and gave the Cavs 11 road games in their first 16 contests. Anybody who's ever complained about the subtleties of Portland's schedule should check that out. Cleveland actually owns a 2-3 home record. They're just winning at a 10% clip on the road, mostly versus playoff-bound teams.

Absent Irving, the Cavaliers don't have much scoring punch. Daniel Gibson is as streaky as ever. Pargo isn't going to change the world. Dion Waiters and Alonzo Gee shoot poorly. In fact most everybody but Varejao struggles to hit a shot. Gibson and Gee are good beyond the arc but that doesn't help efficiency much. They're sub-par in the paint, they don't fast break, they don't draw a lot of foul shots, they can't hit anything but the occasional three, and they turn over the ball plenty. This is not a prescription for a world-beating, or even Phoenix-beating, offense.

Cleveland's defensive efficiency is also poor. They allow plenty of fast break points and are constantly dueling with the Blazers to see who will allow the highest shooting percentage to opponents.

The Cavaliers do rebound well. Offensively, defensively, games are just one big carom buffet for them. They'd like to use this to control tempo but all of those turnovers and misses in the inefficient offense scuttle those plans.

Despite all that, Cleveland just pasted 113 points on the Atlanta Hawks last night. If they can score that many on the Blazers, or honestly even 105, they have a good shot at winning. Portland's job will be to play good enough defense that even their struggling offense can't help but prevail. Normally "good defense" and "Trail Blazers" go hand-in-hand like artichokes and chocolate dip, but these are the Cavaliers. ANY defense will do. If the Blazers can't play "D" successfully tonight, against whom will they ever succeed?

The Blazers need to take this game seriously and execute professionally in order to gain what should otherwise be a de facto win. Here's hoping they do it.

Fear The Sword talks about the Cavaliers.

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--Dave (