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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Cleveland Cavaliers Game Preview

The Blazers finish up their road trip back East.

Portland Trail Blazers v Cleveland Cavaliers Photo by Lauren Bacho/Getty Images

Portland Trail Blazers (3-4) vs Cleveland Cavaliers (4-4)

The Portland Trail Blazers play their third and final game of their road trip in Cleveland. The Trail Blazers are coming off two straight losses to the Charlotte Hornets and Philadelphia 76ers and are hoping to pick up this win to return to Portland with some momentum. The Cavaliers are back home after beating the Hornets in Charlotte in their last game, hoping to improve on that win by winning their first game back.

Wednesday, November 3 - 4:00 p.m. PT
How to watch on TV: ROOT Sports, NBA League Pass
Blazers injuries:
Cavaliers injuries: Isaac Okoro (out), Kevin Love (out), Lauri Markkanen (out)
SBN Affiliate: Fear The Sword

What To Watch For

  • Small ball or battle of bigs? The Cavaliers committed a lot of money to big men this off-season as they extended Jarrett Allen, drafted Evan Mobley, and traded for and extended Lauri Markkanen. The three big men are so far leading the team in minutes played per game and have logged a significant number of minutes with all three on the floor. How the Blazers, who have often turned to small ball running Larry Nance Jr. at the center spot, combat this oversized lineup could determine the outcome of this game. Do the Blazers continue to play small and spread out the collection of bigs? Or do they go bigger to try and battle it out in the paint?
  • Anfernee Simons. Simons has come out this season playing like a man on a mission. Through seven games Simons is averaging career highs in points, assists, rebounds, steals, field goal percentage, and three point percentage. He is the reason the Blazers have been able to stay afloat during this early season slump from Damian Lillard. Simons’ jump seems to be the result of an intense offseason of training and working on his game, which makes it likely that this improvement is real rather than a hot streak.
  • Defense. The Blazers have played much better defense this season than they have in recent seasons, but the difference between how they play in wins and losses is glaring. Through seven games there is a more than 20 point difference between how many points they allow in wins versus losses. Allowing just 97.7 points per game in wins is incredible; it is a number that would be leading the league. However, the 119.5 points allowed in losses is second only to the Boston Celtics, who are last in the league by almost five points per game allowed. Which version of the Blazers show up tonight could be the difference between a win and a loss.

What Others Are Saying

Jackson Flickinger of Fear The Sword talked about the early season dip in numbers for Colin Sexton adjusting to playing more off the ball than he has in recent years.

It’s been a weird season for Sexton as he’s adjusting to playing almost exclusively off-ball. He’s averaging 17.3 points per game so far this season which is considerably lower than the previous two seasons (20.8 and 24.3). He’s also averaging a career low in assists per game (1.9) and field goal attempts per game (13.6). He’s also on pace to have his best effective field goal percentage of his career.

Sexton has been the focal point of the offense for the better part of the last three season. He’s led the team in usage rate all three of those seasons and scored about as efficiently as someone on a bad team with few offensive weapons around them reasonably could. Sexton still has the highest usage rate on the team, but it isn’t as high as it was last season.

Ben Golliver of the Washington Post talks about Evan Mobley’s early season success as a rookie.

In his first two weeks, though, Mobley has outpaced his predecessors and defied conventional wisdom, which stipulates that rookie big men require extra patience because of the physical nature of the professional game and the significant defensive responsibilities placed upon them. The 20-year-old Mobley, who spent just one season in college, has hit the ground running, offering hints that he could develop into Cleveland’s long-awaited franchise player.

“I feel like I’m getting adjusted to the NBA pretty fast,” Mobley said Friday after scoring a season-high 23 points and grabbing six rebounds against the Lakers. “I’m catching on to a lot of things. As I play more and more games, I’m getting better and more acclimated. I feel like I’m pretty ahead of schedule so far.”

Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com talked about Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff’s offensive scheme and how it has led to more assists but also more turnovers early in this season.

Over the last month, Bickerstaff has talked about not only wanting to play faster but a need to make the extra pass. There’s a learning curve involved with that kind of style. Increased pace can naturally lead to more turnovers. The growing pains were clear in the preseason. The numbers are once again headed in the wrong direction. There were 20 against the Clippers. Fifteen more versus the Lakers. And then Saturday’s giveaway fest that helped ignite the Suns’ 50-12 run that started in the second quarter and carried through halftime.

On one hand, the offensive approach has worked. The Cavs rank sixth in assists, averaging 24.9. They have assisted on 64.2% of their shots. But they also rank in the bottom third in turnovers, which tends to sabotage the offense. Some teams have the individual offensive firepower to overcome that many wasted possessions. The Cavs aren’t one of them. Turnovers, plus wretched 3-point shooting equals a pedestrian 103.3 offensive rating.