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Cleveland Cavaliers at Portland Trail Blazers Game Preview

The Blazers take on LeBron James and the World Champs on the second night of a back-to-back.

Portland Trail Blazers v Cleveland Cavaliers Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Cleveland Cavaliers (28-9) at Portland Trail Blazers (17-23)

Jan. 11, 2017, 7:30 PST
Watch: KGW, ESPN; Listen: Rip City Radio 620 AM
Blazers injuries: Festus Ezeli (out)
Cavaliers injuries: J.R Smith (out), Chris Anderson (out)
SBN Affiliate: Fear the Sword

One night after a 108-87 blowout win over the Lakers, the Portland Trail Blazers return home to take on the World Champion Cleveland Cavaliers on the second night of a back-to-back.

Cleveland won’t have a rest advantage, however, as they had a game of their own last night, falling to Utah 100-92.

The Cavaliers continue to be led by LeBron James, now 32 years old and still a dominant force on the court, averaging 26 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists a game while shooting 52 percent from the floor. Presumably, Moe Harkless will get the assignment on James tonight, but expect a lot of switching between he and Al-Farouq Aminu in an effort to throw him some different looks.

Kyrie Irving continues to have his best season as a pro, putting up 24 points of his own and shooting 42 percent from the 3-point line. One of the quickest players in the league with the ball in his hands, Irving excels at penetrating against poor defending guards while also doubling as a stellar spot-up shooter when LeBron is controlling the offense.

The good news is that Kevin Love probably won’t score 34 points in the fourth quarter against the Blazers like he did earlier this season. The bad news is that Love is having his best season in several years, putting up 21 points and nearly 11 rebounds a night. Last time these teams faced off, Aminu was out with a calf strain, and Mason Plumlee and Ed Davis had difficulties closing out against Love on the perimeter. Hopefully for Portland, Aminu fares better in this regard.

Down low, Cleveland starts Tristan Thompson, who plays solid interior defense while putting up 10 rebounds and seven points a night. Thompson garners fewer than five shot attempts per game, mostly off of offensive rebounds and broken plays, so he needs to be accounted for at all times even if he isn’t a true offensive threat.

With J.R. Smith sidelined with a broken thumb, new acquisition Kyle Korver may get his first start in a Cavaliers uniform. One of the deadliest 3-point shooters of all time, Korver is actually having a “down” year from beyond the stripe, shooting 41 percent. Korver has a quick release and is accurate from anywhere on the perimeter, and getting him from Atlanta was a major coup for the Cavs, who are surely salivating at the thought of all the open looks he’s going to get when the defense collapses on LeBron.

Cleveland’s bench unit is led by veteran role players Channing Frye, Iman Shumpert, and Richard Jefferson. Frye and Shumpert both shoot over 40 percent from the 3-point line and Jefferson, while not nearly the player he used to be, is capable of giving 15 minutes a night without making any major mistakes.

Portland will have their hands full tonight with a Cavaliers team that continues to roll through the regular season. With their new doubling/trapping scheme, they may be able to take Irving out of his comfort zone and, with Aminu checking Love, hopefully he is limited in his open looks.

Unfortunately, that still leaves LeBron. He can’t really be taken out of the game with a scheme, but the Blazers will want to maximize their switching between Harkless and Aminu and make life on him as difficult as possible. This will be big test to see what Portland’s recently improved defense is really made of.

Blazer’s Edge Night 2017

Want to assist us in sending 2,000+ underprivileged Portland-area kids to a Trail Blazers game this spring? Check out Blazer’s Edge Night 2017 for information on how to get involved, and help spread the word!