The Portland Trail Blazers were expected to dispatch the Cleveland Cavaliers tonight. Even on the second night of a back-to-back, the odds were stacked in Portland’s favor. Roster and record were both superior. Even injured, the Blazers could bring the firepower of Damian Lillard and Gary Trent, Jr. to bear. The Cavaliers boasted center Andre Drummond and a cast of unknowns. They remained just as incognito walking out of Moda Center as walking in, as the Blazers routed their hapless opponent 129-110.
Damian Lillard scored 20 with 9 assists. Enes Kanter added 21 with 7 offensive rebounds. Gary Trent, Jr. scored 26 to lead the team. Carmelo Anthony gave the team an efficient 23.
Trent, Jr. got the Blazers on a roll early, hitting three free throws off a foul, then a conventional three-point play. This started a parade of whistles in Portland’s favor worthy of Brazilian Carnival. The Blazers jumped off to a 14-4 lead, courtesy of foul shots off of drives and fakes. When Drummond picked up two fouls and had to sit, the Blazers had a size advantage as well. The game became a rout. The Blazers remained ahead by 15-16 points much of the quarter...and this without hitting a single three-pointer. The bench gave up a little of the lead as the quarter closed, but Portland still led 34-23 after the first.
The defense slipped slightly as the second period opened. Cleveland only want to score inside. Portland knew that, but still let them. But the offense stayed strong and the Cavs never really threatened. Carmelo Anthony continued his momentum from last night, striking from the post with a variety of tricky moves. Trent, Jr. was money no matter where he touched the ball. Anfernee Simons scoring made the game all but unfair. The reserves kept the seat warm until Lillard checked back in. He torched the nets and hit the hands of teammates for assists, captaining almost every play. Cleveland had no answer for what was already going on, let alone for Lillard. Dame had 8 assists at the half and Portland led 73-52 at the half.
The Cavaliers came out with 3-4 minutes of spirited play to start the third, but threes from Trent, Jr. and Lillard quenched the spark before it could ignite. Even when teammates missed, Enes Kanter continued to sweep up offensive rebounds for easy put-backs. The third period closed with Portland up 100-77. The outcome from that point was a foregone conclusion.
This was another solid win by Portland against a team they were expected to beat, and did. It’s exactly the kind of victory that can keep them afloat through injuries, preserving a sense of growth and dignity as they wait out the return of CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic, angling towards a run at a decent seed in the 2021 NBA Playoffs.
Stay tuned for our extended recap with analysis, coming soon.
The Blazers now head on the road to face the Dallas Mavericks at 4:30, Pacific this Sunday.