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Bench Thrives as Blazers Crush Cavs

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Portland’s reserves combine for 70 points as part of a 141-105 beatdown in Cleveland, capping a 5-1 road trip.

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

The Portland Trail Blazers ended their six-game road trip exactly like they started it—by blowing out an inferior opponent. Portland pulverized the Cleveland Cavaliers by a final score of 141-105 on Wednesday, ending their trek with a sterling 5-1 record. The win also pulled the team within a half-game of the Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks for fifth in the Western Conference standings.

Damian Lillard was terrific, scoring 32 points on 10-17 shooting with nine assists, but the real heroes for the Blazers were their second unit—who combined for a mind-boggling 70 points in the effort, led by the likes of Enes Kanter and Carmelo Anthony. As a team, Portland shot an impressive 58% from the field on the night, including just shy of 50% from three.

Kevin Love was the high-man for Cleveland, scoring 18 points with eight rebounds in 26 minutes, but also registered an abysmal -45 in the plus/minus—by far the worst of any Cavs player in the game.

Here were the key takeaways from Wednesday’s victory:

The Beast Feasts

Jusuf Nurkic continued his recent tear on the court, going for 15 points, 11 rebounds and three assists, with just a single turnover. Even more impressive, it came in just 21 minutes of action. Offensively, the big man got it done in a variety of ways—working masterfully in the pick-and-roll with Lillard, posting up, working the offensive glass, and even sprinkling in a three-pointer for good measure. The full arsenal was on display. In addition, Nurk held down what was overall a so-so defensive effort from Portland, protecting the rim with four blocks.

Bench Provides Spark

After a nip-and-tuck opening frame in which Portland was carried by the hot shooting and 16 points of Lillard, the Blazers were able to establish a double-digit lead in the second quarter behind their bench. The quartet of Anthony, Kanter, Anfernee Simons and Nassir Little made a tremendous impact offensively, combining for 27 points in the period in which the Blazers outscored Cleveland 38-29.

The unit also put their mark on the game in the second half. After the Cavs cut Portland’s lead to just 10 points with 3:31 remaining, the group (plus Lillard) responded with a 12-0 run to close the 3rd quarter. Cleveland never made another serious charge.

All four were efficient with their scoring throughout the game, which hasn’t always been the case. Kanter finished with 18 points (9-11 shooting) and 13 rebounds, Anthony went for 16 points (5-8 from the field), while Little was 3-3 and Simons 4-6, including 2-2 from beyond the arc.

Next Man Up

With Norman Powell out due to a knee injury, Derrick Jones Jr. was called upon to fill his spot in the starting lineup. Jones, who has vanished from the rotation in recent games, was primarily tasked with guarding Collin Sexton defensively. The Cavs guard was able to gain the upper hand early—blowing past Jones a few times off the dribble to get to the rim. Ultimately, however, Sexton was limited to just 15 points in the game, well off his seasonal scoring average of 24.5 per night. Only five of those points came in the second half, as Cleveland opted to get their three-point shooters more looks while the deficit grew.

Offensively, Jones looked rusty early—as was probably to be expected. He committed three turnovers in the first half, but did finish the night with five points on a highly-efficient 2-2 from the field, including an impressive alley-oop slam.

Noteworthy

  • CJ McCollum was about the only Blazer who couldn’t find a shooting rhythm, as he shot just 3-14 from the field for 10 points. Ironically, despite the struggles, his +22 was the highest plus/minus of any Blazer starter, as he was on the floor during the bench’s big run in the first half.
  • Anderson Varejao, who recently signed a 10-day contract, checked-in for the Cavs in the fourth quarter for his first NBA appearance since 2017. Interestingly enough, the native Brazilian is still cashing checks from the Blazers, as part of a stretch provision following his release in 2016 after being acquired at the trade deadline with a first-round pick.
  • Harry Giles continued his run as a garbage time microwave, scoring six points in six minutes on 3-5 shooting. The big man has now hit at least two shots in three of his last five appearances, none of which have eclipsed the 10-minute mark.

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The Blazers return home for a crucial showdown with the Lakers on Friday night, with the season series (and potential tiebreaker) on the line. The nationally televised game is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. PT. Lakers star LeBron James (ankle) is currently listed as questionable for the contest.