For three and-a-half quarters, it appeared the Portland Trail Blazers would put an end to their losing streak—and against one of the league’s top teams to boot. However, they were doomed by another crunch-time collapse, falling to the Cleveland Cavaliers by a final score of 119-113 at Moda Center. The defeat, the team’s fifth consecutive, spoiled a 50-point performance from Damian Lillard—his highest total of the season.
Jarrett Allen was the Cavs’ top scoring threat for much of the night, tying a season-high with 24 points. However, it was the dynamic backcourt duo of Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland who took control late for Cleveland. The Cavs finished the game on a 20-9 run despite not holding their first lead until there were less than five minutes remaining. Mitchell finished with a team-high 26 points.
For a quarter-by-quarter breakdown, see our Instant Recap. Here were the key storylines from Thursday night’s action.
Portland was in control for nearly the entire night, but the wheels fell off the proverbial bus in the back-end of the fourth quarter. The Cavs forced them deep into the shot clock on multiple possessions, leading to contested, often hurried looks. Meanwhile, Garland and Mitchell—who had an extremely quiet first half—started to attack the rim on the other end as the Blazers failed to string together defensive stops while their offense sputtered out of control.
Jerami Grant played with five fouls for the majority of the fourth quarter, while defensive ace Gary Payton II, in just his third game back from injury, was on the bench in crunch time. Payton did log a season-high 21 minutes, but the team surely could have benefitted from his presence against Cleveland’s guards with the game on the line.
The Blazers were repeatedly torched at the rim in the early going by Cleveland’s lengthy pairing of Allen and Evan Mobley. The duo worked in tandem and with the Cavalier guards on a variety of alley-oop jams to stay in the game as Portland’s offense hummed at the other end of the floor. While Jusuf Nurkic and his Blazer teammates struggled to defend the lob, back-up center Drew Eubanks proved to be an effective rim protector upon his insertion into the contest—quickly blocking two shots and contesting a number of other looks.
Mobley picked up his third personal foul early in the second quarter and spent the rest of the first half on the bench, taking away Cleveland’s decided height advantage. The Cavs went away from the lob, and the Blazers were able to control the game going into halftime. Barely a minute into the second half, Mobley earned his fourth foul, and again took an extended seat on the bench. He was limited to 25 minutes on the night.
By rebutting the early lob attack, the Blazers put themselves in excellent position to win the game, before self-imploding down the stretch. Outside of the final minutes, their offense looked significantly better than that of the Cavs. Turnovers were still an issue, but the overall offensive flow was the best the team has shown in a while, and it came against a formidable Cavaliers defense.
While the spirit was dampened by the frustrating finish, Lillard showed that he still has plenty left in the tank. He turned in an incredibly efficient line of 16-28 shooting, including 5-13 from deep and 13-15 from the line. He also committed just one turnover, though only had three assists.
The issue, however, was that he didn’t get enough scoring help from his teammates. Grant had a big third quarter, but missed a pair of badly needed three-pointers in the final minutes. Anfernee Simons was efficient, but only finished with 15 points. Ditto for Nurkic, who had 12, but had his hands full with Allen guarding the rim. No other Blazer hit more than one shot.
The Blazers (19-22) host Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday night in the first game of a weekend back-to-back. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. PT from Moda Center.