The Portland Trail Blazers came into Cleveland on Wednesday night having lost four of the last five games. Once again, they took the floor without All-Star point guard Damian Lillard. Usual Lillard replacement Shaedon Sharpe went back to bench in this game with Justise Winslow taking his place in the starting lineup. In the end, it didn’t make a difference.
The Cleveland Cavaliers were the better team for most of the game, and in the end cruised to an 18 point victory. Donovan Mitchell was electric with 34 points, while Jarrett Allen and Darius Garland each pumped in 24.
Turnovers were the real story though. The Blazers finished with 16, but nearly all of them occurred when the game was still being actively contested. Most were of the ugly variety, and shifted momentum just when the Blazers needed to make a run.
Here’s how it happened.
Josh Hart opened the scoring with a floating jumper off the glass, but three early turnovers gave Blazers fans a sinking feeling. Cleveland couldn’t take advantage though as a three from Simons and a two from Grant gave Portland the lead. With Portland shooting 60% from the field and 60% from deep, the Blazers had a five point advantage at the first time out.
The Cavaliers came back out firing, and quickly erased the lead and then some with two three pointers from Donovan Mitchell, with the earlier one turning into a four point play after a foul by Josh Hart. Portland fought back with aggressive penetrating play from Josh. At the next timeout with 2:56 left in the quarter, the Blazers had earned a two point advantage at 19-17. With the Blazers continuing to shoot well, the lead could have been larger if not for the four turnovers.
As the Blazers went more heavily into the bench, the Cavaliers started to get their noses in front. Another Blazer turnover didn’t help, and strong play from Jarrett Allen quickly gave Cleveland a seven point lead at the end of one. Allen finished the quarter with 10 while Donovan Mitchell added nine. Hart and Grant lead the Blazers with six points each.
The Blazers started the quarter with a Nassir Little offensive foul for their sixth turnover, while Garland hit a pair of threes including a shot clock buzzer beater to extend the lead to 13. A few more turnovers for the Blazers combined with continued solid play from Cleveland had the Blazers reeling, and Chauncy Billups called timeout with 8:34 left and a 16 point deficit.
How did the Blazers come out of the timeout? Simons chucked the ball out of bounds for yet another turnover. Yeesh. Cleveland tried to help with few turnovers of their own, and Portland began to slowly chip away at the lead. Jusuf Nurkic was instrumental in Portland’s effort with a few strong rumbles into the lane, but just when it seemed like the Blazers were going to go on a big run the Cavaliers would take advantage of a blown defensive assignment to keep the Blazers at bay. Still, progress was being made, and better defense and patient offense got the lead down to as low as eight. A bad Grant pass though lead to a Cavalier fast break and-one layup, extending the lead back to 10 with a free throw to come going in to a Cleveland timeout with 2:50 left in the half.
As the quarter wound down, good Blazers defense triggered some fast break opportunities which the Blazers duly took advantage of, but two Mitchell bombs from deep kept the Blazers at arm’s length. A last second tip in from Allen ended the half with Cleveland leading by 9, 52 to 43.
Portland finished the half shooting 53.1% from the field and 50% from deep, but Cleveland shot 56.4% from the field and 60% from three. The Blazers did well with shot selection, generally getting easier shots than the Cavs in spite of Cleveland’s shooting percentage advantage. The real story though was the turnovers. 12 turnovers for the Blazers is really all that needs to be said. Portland had moments of excellent basketball on both ends of the court, but those turnovers is how you can shoot 50%+ while only scoring 43 points.
A Nurkic(!) three pointer opened the scoring, and while the Blazers asked plenty of questions of Cleveland, the Cavs seemed to have an answer for each question asked. Then after 3 minutes of 20 seconds without a turnover, two more Blazers turnovers got added to the tally and Portland called timeout at 7:29 left in the quarter down by 11 at 69-58. Some real good effort in the quarter undone quickly.
Donovan Mitchell, already having a fantastic night, put in six quick points, giving him 26 points for the night and extending the lead to 15. Another Nurkic three, a Simons and-one and a Trendon Watford teardrop and-one answered back, cutting the lead to 6 in a hurry. When the Blazers made substitutions, the momentum largely stopped however. The Cavs got it back up to 12 behind an Allen turnaround hook shot, but Drew Eubanks answered with a hook shoot from nine feet away to go into a Cleveland timeout with 2:13 left in the quarter and a 81-71 Cavaliers advantage.
Portland took advantage of some second chance opportunities, but once again the Cavaliers had all of the answers and extended their lead to twelve at 87-75 at the end of the three.
Nurkic finished the quarter with 19 points, while Grant had 21. Unfortunately Simons only had six points on 16.7% shooting. Mitchell lead all scoring with 28.
The Blazers started the quarter ice cold, missing all but one of their first seven shots. Cleveland didn’t have that problem, and the lead exploded. By the time Cleveland called timeout with 7:59 to go, the lead had ballooned to 18 and this one was all but over.
The Blazers mounted one last effort at a comeback. Simons finally broke out of his misery and got a couple of threes to drop and and drilled three free-throws when he was fouled on another attempt. With 5:51 to go, the lead was cut to 12.
After a Cleveland timeout Simons continued his revival with with a lightening quick dunk and another three. The Cavaliers though never were truly threatened, and by the time Portland called timeout with 3:34 left Cleveland still had a comfortable 13 point lead.
Mitchell resumed his reign of terror with a dunk and another three, extending the lead back to 15 with 2:44 to go. Both teams eventually emptied the bench and this one was done. Cleveland won garbage time, and the final score was 114-96.
Our extended recap is just around the corner.
The Blazers have Thanksgiving off and then it’s on to MSG on Friday for a tilt against the New York Knicks at 4:30 p.m. Pacific.