Game 41: Cavs at Trail Blazers
Radio/TV: WTAM (1100 AM), WFUN (970 AM)/Fox Sports Ohio
WHAT HAPPENED: It's hard to believe we're at the halfway point in the season.
If Wednesday's game was any indication, the second half is going to be an exciting one. The Cavs nipped the Trail Blazers behind guard Kyrie Irving's game-high 31 points, three rebounds, five assists and four steals.
Irving drained 13 of 24 from the field, 1 of 4 from behind the arc and 4 of 4 from the foul line.
This was a duel between last year's Rookie of the Year (Irving) vs. the frontrunner for the award this year (Portland's Damian Lillard). Irving outscored him, 31-13, although Lillard had more assists, 7-5.
Irving made him look bad on a few occasions.
The Cavs snapped a three-game losing streak, all on this West Coast trip. So, they are 1-3 on the journey out west, with one game remaining on Saturday in Utah.
That one certainly won't be easy. Heck, they didn't play well in Utah when LeBron James was on the team. If they could somehow pull it out, a 2-3 trip would be outstanding.
I'm just tired of losing. Sure, I see some of the same things the Cavs see in some of these players. All four of the building blocks are intriguing. Power forward Tristan Thompson has made major strides in the last month.
Thompson had 19 points and a game-high 14 rebounds against the Blazers. He was 7 of 15 from the field, 5 of 10 from the foul line. Twice in the fourth quarter, he missed both free throws when going to the line. He's got to master his free-throw shooting. He's been around 80 percent as of late.
Thompson battled on the defensive end. He outplayed Blazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge and made him work for his 15 points and 10 rebounds. Aldridge blocked game-high four shots.
Former Cavs center J.J. Hickson was very good, as well, with 13 points, 11 rebounds and one block. It was pretty much a standoff at center with the Cavs' Tyler Zeller. The rookie finished with 11 points, nine rebounds and two blocks. He was 5 of 5 from the foul line.
It was a much better effort from Zeller, who had been manhandled in each of the previous two games.
Neither team's bench made much of an impact. The Cavs outscored Portland, 15-7. Cavs guard Dion Waiters, fresh off a 33-point performance in Sacramento, dropped off against the Blazers. He finished with five points and four rebounds.
That's the kind of up-and-down performances he's been giving Coach Byron Scott.
And, while we're on the subject of the bench, remember when Daniel Gibson used to play? Remember when he was really good? Now, he doesn't even get off the bench.
Portland has now lost four in a row, including back-to-back games at Denver and to the Cavs.
Tonight's game was every bit as exciting as the Dec. 1 meeting at The Q when the Blazers prevailed, 118-117, in double overtime.
Portland had won the last four meetings vs. the Cavs, its longest streak since the 2001-02 season.
The Cavs are forcing an average of 19 turnovers in the four games on this trip. Of course, they rank fourth in the NBA by forcing 15.8 turnovers per game.
Nicolas Batum paced the Blazers with 23 points, but he committed nine turnovers. That's hard to do for someone who doesn't really handle the ball that much.
KYRIE'S TIME COMING?: I believe Irving is going to make the Eastern Conference All-Star team. The Sporting News' Sean Deveney agrees with that sentiment.
LAST GAME: The Cavs lost to Sacramento on Monday, 124-118.
UP NEXT: The Cavs travel to Utah at 9 p.m. Saturday at Energy Solutions Arena.
SF Alonzo Gee (6-6, 219) vs. Nicolas Batum (6-8, 210)
PF Tristan Thompson (6-9, 227) vs. LaMarcus Aldridge (6-11, 255)
C Tyler Zeller (7-0, 250) vs. J.J. Hickson (6-9, 239)
SG C.J. Miles (6-6, 222) vs. Wesley Matthews (6-5, 214)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 191) vs. Damian Lillard (6-3, 195)
Cavs – C Anderson Varejao
Trail Blazers - G Elliot Williams, C Meyers Leonard
Ed Malloy, David Jones, Brenda Pantoja