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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Cleveland Cavaliers Preview

The Blazers look to bounce back.

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

Portland Trail Blazers (14-23) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (21-17)

The Portland Trail Blazers take on the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Moda Center this evening. The Blazers are missing key pieces in Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, but both Anfernee Simons and Nassir Little have shown they are capable of picking up the slack. Following a loss to the Miami Heat, the Blazers need to get their feet under them and get a win. Cleveland is also coming off of a close loss to the Memphis Grizzlies 110-106.

Friday, January 7 - 7:00 p.m. PT
How to watch on TV: ROOT Sports, NBA League Pass
Blazers injuries: Damian Lillard (out), CJ McCollum (out), Larry Nance Jr. (out), Cody Zeller (out),
Cavaliers injuries: Isaac Okoro (out), Cedi Osman (out), Rajon Rondo (out)
SBN Affiliate: Fear the Sword

UPDATE: Per a tweet from Adrian Wojanrowski of ESPN, Trail Blazers center Cody Zeller is expected to return to the lineup this evening following a month-long struggle with knee injury and COVID-19.

What To Watch For

Ant on fire. Anfernee Simons has been on a tear in recent games, scoring a career-high 43 points against the Atlanta Hawks and managing a solid showing against the Miami Heat with 28 points. Against the Heat, there seemed to be a moment where Ant kicked it into an extra gear in the third quarter, taking the offense to the next level.

Bench Love. Kevin Love has always been fun to watch when he’s doing well. Although he’s coming off of the bench these days and enjoying the role of savvy veteran, he’s still contributing on the floor for the Cavaliers, managing 18 points and 10 rebounds in their last outing against the Grizzlies.

Start solid, stay solid. The Blazers barely generated any offense in the first quarter against the Heat, and it caused them to have to play catchup in the second half. Norman Powell needs to get into rhythm early, because without Larry Nance Jr. on the floor, it is going to be a struggle to get going. The Blazers need to recognize that without Nance as a communicator pushing people on the floor, they are going to need to do it themselves.

What Others Are Saying

Evan Mobley of the Cavs is in the running for rookie of the year, and Tim Bielik of Cleveland.com says he is making the most of his opportunities.

With most of his teammates in the protocols at various points in December, particularly Darius Garland, Mobley had to take on a larger role. He’s stepped up in his last five games, averaging 20.0 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists on 61.1 percent shooting. It’s a massive scoring uptick from the previous 10 in which he had 12.5 points per game on 44.1 percent shooting.

Both Jarrett Allen and Darius Garland made the top ten in All-Star fan voting, but it’s not likely to be enough, reports Nick Trizzino of Fear the Sword.

Take from this what you will. Neither Cavalier was ever going to make the All-Star team through fan voting—Garland is behind Kyrie Irving, who didn’t play until this week—but it can only be a good sign that Allen and Garland’s play this season has earned them some national recognition.