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Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Portland Trail Blazers Preview

The Blazers face the Cavs looking for a win.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Cleveland Cavaliers Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The weary Portland Trail Blazers will fly home to the Moda Center to face the Cleveland Cavaliers tonight. The Cavs are apparently really missing Isaac Okoro. Luckily for the Cavs, the Blazers are missing darn near everybody. I mean this as respectfully as possible, but when Jamaree Bouyea is getting 17 minutes, your team might be a bit thin.

We know the Blazers’ story: they’re hurt, they’re struggling, and reinforcements (beyond Malcolm Brogdon) aren’t coming any time soon. The Cavaliers were a preseason darling of Kevin Pelton’s model, pegged at 48 wins and second in the East. After starting the season 1-3 they’re still trying to find their footing. They currently sit two games below .500.

The Blazers are playing without rest, but Jerami Grant at 29 years old is the oldest of the Blazers’ rotation players by a fair bit. Whether young legs will be enough to overcome the back-to-back and a sizable talent gap despite their records remains to be seen.

Portland Trail Blazers (3-7) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (4-6) - Wed. Nov. 15 - 7:00 p.m. PST

How to watch on TV: Root Sports, NBA League Pass

Trail Blazers injuries: Anfernee Simons (out), Scoot Henderson (out), Robert Williams III (out), Malcolm Brogdon (out)

Cavaliers injuries: Ricky Rubio, Ty Jerome, Darius Garland, Isaac Okoro (out)

SBN Affiliate: Fear the Sword

Blazer’s Edge Reader Questions

You might have seen in our post from the other day that we’re asking you all to lob some questions at us for the game previews! We’ll plan to pick one or two every game and answer them as best we can. To that end...

From ROY7fan:

“What two main areas of Shaedon’s game is the coaching staff concentrating on for him to make the next leap in his effectiveness?”

As Sharpe looks more and more like a legit NBA starter today with All-Star or even All-NBA upside tomorrow, questions about his development (or refinement, if you will) are more pressing. It’s also important to remember the context. Yes, he’s playing on a losing team and no, the stakes for the team aren’t particularly high this year, but individual expectations for Sharpe definitely are. Having your coach compare you to a guard who got a handful of MVP votes a few years ago will do that.

Clearly, one area of improvement the coaching staff want to see from Shaedon is his defense. As Blazer’s Edge alum Peter Sampson shared, Billups has been on Sharpe about that specifically:

“You know, I thought Shae was good. He had some lapses defensively. I think he could’ve been a ton better… defensively tonight.”

We can break that down into two parts.

  • Defensive awareness and positioning. Making highlight blocks is nice, but that was all reaction time and fast twitch muscle: not solid defense. Athleticism can erase many mistakes that the Blazers’ coaching staff prefer Sharpe not make in the first place, and given his physical gifts, he can develop in a good-to-great defender if his mind catches up to his body.
  • Defensive communication. Granted, this one is particularly hard playing on a team like the Blazers which, if we’re being honest, easily has the talent level of a bottom-3 team injuries considered. From The Oregonian back in January:

Being in the right position, Chauncey Billups said, isn’t enough. Sharpe also must communicate with teammates so they know he is in the proper position. Simons said he has encouraged Sharpe to talk more often. “Let that become something you might not want to do, but you have to do in order to be successful, especially to help the team,” Simons said.

Thank you to everyone who shot questions at us, and for humoring us as we try something new! Look for another call for questions about upcoming Lakers game soon.

About the Opponent

Tony Pesta of the Junkyard Pod argues in the video below that the Cavs’ Caris LeVert is one of the NBA’s more underrated sixth men:

Caris LeVert is playing a career high in minutes as the Cavs have come to rely on him more than expected... LeVert has always been at his best acting as a secondary or third ball handler, and his minutes alongside Donovan Mitchell and Max Straus have ensured he can settle nicely into that role. So far, he’s been great at taking care of the ball (93% percentile for turnover percentage and 85% percentile for assists).

Chris Fedor of paints a sad portrait of a struggling Cavs team following their recent loss to the Sacramento Kings.

It was quiet inside the visitor’s locker room at Golden 1 Center late Monday night. Melancholy. Gloomy. Somber... “I said come to me after Game 10. Well, this was Game 10. Gotta figure this s--- out,” Mitchell said, following the team’s latest setback. “I think the biggest thing now is finding a level of consistency.”

Corey Walsh of Fear the Sword outlines whose stock on the Cavs is on the rise or decline, with their outside defense getting a tepid review:

Stock Down: Perimeter Defense solutions. Many of the Cavaliers’ losses have been excused by “well, team X got hot from three”, which is a fine statement to utter when it’s an outlier. However, the Cavaliers are looking like a team struggling for solutions to teams firing a barrage from the perimeter. The Cavaliers currently rank 28th in the league against the three point shot, allowing teams to shoot from the arc at a staggering 40.5% according to Cleaning The Glass.