The Portland Trail Blazers travel to Cleveland, Ohio to take on a top team in the Eastern Conference in the Cleveland Cavaliers. Tip-off at the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse is set for 7:00 p.m. EST.
It hasn’t been great for Portland as of late as they come into this game with a three game losing streak, dropping games to the Brooklyn Nets, Utah Jazz, and Milwaukee Bucks. Even in those losses they’ve been able to keep them close, but the largest point deficit was to the Bucks, in which they lost 119-111. The missing factor here was Damian Lillard, and he will be out again with a calf strain.
The Cavaliers, on the other hand, come in on a three game win streak, helped by getting Jarrett Allen back in the lineup. Cleveland is coming off a dominant game against the Atlanta Hawks where they won 114-102. The Cavaliers have a balanced offense and defense, which has helped lead them to an 11-6 record and third in the Eastern Conference.
How Portland Can Win: The Trail Blazers defense has kept them in games this season, allowing only an average of 108.9 points per game, the seventh-least in the NBA. They thrive at stopping three-point shots, as they are allowing only 35.1% from three, the 11th lowest percentage allowed. It is the offensive side that needs to step up with the defensive play. Lillard leads the team in average points scored per game with 26.3, the next closest scorer is Anfernee Simons with 22.9 points per game. After Simons though there is a drop to Jerami Grant who is averaging 19.6. To win, they will need a complete offensive effort outside of Simons.
How Cleveland Can Win: Continue to play a balanced attack. Both the offense and defense has been clicking for the Cavaliers. They are scoring 115.6 points per game, the eighth-most in the NBA, and holding opponents to the sixth-least points per game with 108.2. Both Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland are scoring machines with scoring an average of 29.8 and 23.9 points respectively. When Cleveland plays their best, it is with the ability to have reserve players come in and help keep up the production. Those players being Dean Wade, Caris LeVert and Kevin Love are all dealing with some sort of injury. So, the starting five of Mitchell, Garland, Lamar Stevens, Evan Mobley, and Allen will have to continue to get offensive production early and keep Portland from scoring to make things easier on the reserves.
Prediction: Cleveland Cavaliers 112, Portland Trail Blazers 98
Not having Lillard against an already difficult defense will be too much to overcome offensively for the Trail Blazers. The Cavaliers will continue to contest near the rim and outside shots well to slow down Portland, while finding ways to consistently score and pull away early.