Yet another Portland Trail Blazers game was a tale of two halves. The Blazers looked unbeatable for most of the first half, nearly effortlessly building a comfortable lead. But it wasn't comfortable enough, as sloppy turnovers and poor shooting caught up with them in the second half. And despite injuries to Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert, the Cleveland Cavaliers were happy to take advantage.
The Blazers were led by Damian Lillard (33 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists), CJ McCollum (24 points, 5 assists, 2 steals), Allen Crabbe (14 points) and Mason Plumlee (10 points and 4 assists). LeBron James scored 33 with 10 rebounds for the Cavaliers.
After a long streak of poor first-quarter performances, the Blazers came out ready to play in Cleveland. Lillard led an early run, making consecutive deep three-pointers to help give Portland an 13 point lead against a shell-shocked Cavs team. The Blazers struggled to score in the second half of the quarter as the bench came in, but Cleveland only mustered a small push, with former Blazer Mo Williams getting on the scoreboard. Portland maintained a lead to finish the quarter.
End of the First: Portland 25, Cleveland 17
The Blazers' bench came alive to open the second quarter, scoring seven consecutive points to open a 15 point lead. Soon it was 16, and Cleveland needed another timeout. They did their best to push their way back into the game, but Portland hit 9 of their first 10 shots to push the lead to 18 at the halfway point. That's when LeBron James came alive. He became the focal point of the Cavs offense, as they picked up their defense at the other end. Cleveland slowly chipped the lead down, cutting it just into single digits before the halftime horn sounded.
Halftime: Portland 56, Cleveland 47
A nine-point halftime lead is never safe in the modern NBA, and sure enough, behind James and Kevin Love, Cleveland grabbed the lead halfway into the quarter. Portland fought back, hitting key three's to play the Cavs to a standstill through the remainder of the quarter. But like a lot of recent games, Portland's mistakes built up down the stretch, committing 9 turnovers in the quarter. The Cavs took advantage, but could only muster a two-point lead by the buzzer.
End of the Third: Cleveland 77, Portland 75
Mo Williams pushed the Cavs lead to 4 as the Blazers started missing the shots they'd hit in the first half. LeBron pushed the lead to 6, then Mo made it 8, and the Blazers started looking for any scoring at all. Al-Farouq Aminu swished a three, but by then LeBron was zeroed-in. He and Mo Williams combined to crush the Blazers' hopes with an alley-oop (combined with a few missed Plumlee free throws), and Portland needed a timeout, down 11. Portland mounted a comeback attempt, cutting the deficit to 7 with five minutes left. Still a 7 point lead two minutes later, Matthew Dellavedova committed an ugly flagrant foul on Mason Plumlee (to the cheers of the crowd). Two made free throws and a Lillard jumper later, the Blazers were within 3 at the three minute mark. But that was as close as it got, as James hit a three-pointer, and Plumlee was called for a charge at the other end. The final seconds took forever, but the end result was inevitable: Another tough Blazers loss.
A few days off for the Blazers, and they finish their road trip Friday night against the Suns, who have already prevailed twice this season. But stay tuned, Dave Deckard will have more coverage of this game later tonight.
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