Portland Trail Blazers (19-21) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (26-16)
The Portland Trail Blazers skid continues. On Tuesday their recently-shaky three-point shooting collapsed completely as they fell to the Orlando Magic by the score of 109-106. The Blazers deserve full credit for the energy and the spirit to come back multiple times from significant deficits, but really it was a game they needed to win to help right the ship and they came up short.
It certainly won’t be easier against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Sitting comfortably in fifth place in the East, the Cavs are playing generally solid basket with the occasional hiccup here and there. On Tuesday they lost a squeaker to the Utah Jazz, 116-114. Donovan Mitchell scored 46 just eight days after dropping 71 on the Chicago Bulls.
Trail Blazers vs. Cavaliers- Thursday, January 12 - 7:00 p.m. PT
How to watch on TV: Root Sports Plus, NBA League Pass
Blazers injuries: Nassir Little (out), Justise Winslow (out), Damian Lillard (questionable), Gary Payton II (probable)
Cavaliers injuries: Dean Wade (out), Dylan Windler (out), Jarrett Allen (questionable), Ricky Rubio (probable)
SBN Affiliate: Fear the Sword
- Donovan Mitchell. So far in the new year Mitchell is averaging 39.8 points per game. We consulted our staff statistician and he told us that that’s a “boatload”. He’s shooting 52.7% from the field over that stretch, and hasn’t missed a free throw since January 2nd. Not exactly who the Blazers want to be facing right now as they look to break out of their slump. The Cavaliers are good across the board and don’t need Mitchell to score 30+, but don’t be surprised if they get that anyway.
- Pace. In statistical terms, pace measures how many possessions a team uses per 48 minutes. The Blazers are 24th in the NBA at 98.38, while the Cavaliers are dead least at 96.19. I’ll let you decide if the Blazers’ tempo is completely intentional, but there is no doubt that Cleveland wants every game to be played at a glacial pace, and they try especially hard to slow other teams’ offense down. Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen are an elite tandem at defending the rim, and they are most impactful when they have a chance to get set in their defense. One way for the Blazers to negate Mobley and Allen’s influence is to get on their horses and try to up the tempo after a Cleveland miss.
- Three point shooting. The Blazers are currently seventh in the NBA in three point shooting percentage. However, for the last 9 games played the Blazers are dead last in the NBA at 31.4% over that stretch. Of course a factor in that last place ranking is the putrid 17.1% they shot from beyond the arc against Orlando, but six of their last nine games have been below 32%. This team-wide slump can’t last forever, especially because many of the misses were from wide open looks. They aren’t taking bad threes for the most part, they just aren’t making them at the moment. Deep shots will start falling again at some point, and when they do things will look a lot rosier.
What Others Are Saying
Caris LeVert is fitting in very well with Cleveland writes Bob Finnan of The Chronicle-Telegram.
The 6-foot-6, 205-pound LeVert moved into the starting lineup four games ago and has thrived. In that span, the 27-year-old is averaging 18.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.0 assists while shooting .403 from the field and .360 from the 3-point line. On the season, he’s averaging 12.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists and shooting .408 from the field and a career-high .367 from distance.
Cleveland is looking for a wing upgrade according to Chris Fedor of cleveland.com, and Tim Hardaway Jr. might fit the bill. (free seven day preview available)
As cleveland.com reported during a recent episode of the Wine and Gold Talk Podcast and then reiterated with Yahoo Sports NBA Insider Jake Fischer on his podcast, the Cavs have interest in Hardaway, and he is near the top of their trade deadline wish list, sources say. Despite the Mavericks currently sitting fourth in the Western Conference, Hardaway is available, sources say, and it’s up to the Cavs or any other team to determine how much appetite they have for taking on the two years and $34.1 million remaining on Hardaway’s contract beyond this season.
Chris Manning of Fear the Sword writes about Ricky Rubio’s imminent return.
What Rubio’s workload and spot in the rotation look like is unclear. He had lot of success last year playing with Darius Garland and, before that, played with Donovan Mitchell in Utah. But how many minutes he’ll play, who he takes minutes from and what he looks like when as returns are all big questions for Rubio and the Cavs to find answers to. They need his playmaking, but it’s likely to be a slow burn.