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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Cleveland Cavaliers Preview: Lillard Questionable

The Blazers face off against the reigning Eastern Conference champions, now struggling without their monarch.

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NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Portland Trail Blazers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (26-19) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (9-35)

Wednesday, January 19th, 2019 - 7:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Moe Harkless (questionable), Damian Lillard (questionable)
Cavaliers injuries: David Nwaba (game-time decision), Larry Nance Jr. (out), Kevin Love (out), John Henson (out), J.R. Smith (out)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
How to stream: YouTube Live TV, Playstation Vue, Hulu Live TV, FuboTV, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Fear the Sword

Update: Damian Lillard is now listed as questionable due to a right hand sprain.

Coming off a rough two-game road trip, the Trail Blazers get to feast on the team with the NBA’s worst record.

Portland fell in Denver and Sacramento on its trip, losing to the Kings 115-107 on Monday. Damian Lillard scored 35, but on 27 shots. CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic were virtually non-existent. Now back in the friendly atmosphere of the Rose City, the Blazers look to get back in gear against the Cavs.

Despite their record, the Cavaliers did get a win their last time out in Los Angeles against the Lakers 101-95. The win snapped a 12-game losing streak as Cedi Osman’s 20 points combined with a pair of double-doubles from Tristan Thompson and Alec Burks secured the victory over the LeBron-less Lakers.

What to watch for

  • Ready, Aim, Fire. Portland’s shooting percentage has been lacking of late, and there is hardly a better opponent to get things re-oriented than the Cavs. Cleveland ranks 28th in the NBA in offense, 23rd in defense, and opponents are shooting a league-best 49.1% against them.
  • Do not underestimate the opponent. The Lakers learned this the hard way on Sunday. The Cavaliers may be coasting for the best chance at the first pick in the upcoming draft, but they are still a team capable of taking wins away from others that slack off.
  • Trust but verify. Coach Terry Stotts has shown a reluctance to trust anyone down the stretches of games outside the veteran crew of Lillard, McCollum, Nurkic, Evan Turner, and Al-Farouq Aminu. If the game is close, will the Blazers give players like Zach Collins or Seth Curry a chance to show what they can do?

What they’re saying

Chris Manning of Fear The Sword has some New Year’s resolutions for the Cavaliers, including tempering expectations:

But the Cavs should not try and force winning games, particularly if they aim to be more than a team that just sneaks into the playoffs every year. For one, having a top-10 pick in 2019 and 2020 (remember, that 2020 first-round pick could still go to the Hawks) would give the franchise the best chance possible of amassing good young talent.

Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer discussed five positives for the team, including rookie Collin Sexton’s joy of the game:

Earlier in the year, a few teammates seemed annoyed that Sexton didn’t appear hurt by losses. It will be interesting how this goes over. Either way, they know him better now. They’ve seen his competitive fire. They seem to understand he doesn’t like to show weakness or vulnerability.

The last thing the organization wants is for one of its young building blocks to get beaten down by the constant losing. Drew has repeatedly said these kinds of seasons test a player’s character. You learn more in the tough times. Sexton’s approach is to stay strong.