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Lillard-Irving Match-Up Highlights Cavs Visit To Portland

01/16/13
  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 5.0

    BY ERIK GUNDERSEN

    The Trail Blazers (20-18) face the Cleveland Cavaliers (9-31) tonight for the second and final time this season. The last meeting between these two was a crazy, 118-117 double-overtime thriller that was won on a three-pointer by Nicolas Batum in the final seconds. Tonight's game will start at 7PM and will be shown on KGW and can be heard on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM. The Trail Blazers will be looking to snap their three-game losing streak and bounce back after a tough overtime loss in Denver last night.

        •    Sure, the last match-up between these two was a thriller and one of the best games of the season. However, tonight is going to be about who didn't play last time and that player is Kyrie Irving. Irving, last year's Rookie Of The Year was out to injury in the previous game robbing us of a highly anticipated match-up between he and Damian Lillard. Irving was putting up great numbers last season and many were clamoring that he should have made the All-Star team and Lillard is stating his case to be on the All-Star Team this season, too. Both players play the game in different ways. While coaches, writers and players rave about Damian Lillard's poise, shooting and body control, Irving leaves many people wondering 'How did he do that?' Irving has been the go-to guy for his team the past two seasons in crunch time and Lillard has not been forced to carry that load night-in and night-out as he has other players capable of making big plays down the stretch on his team. Lillard is sixth in the NBA in scoring in "clutch situations" (games within five points in the last five minutes) and Irving is 10th. Both of them are the future of the point guard position in the NBA and all eyes around the league will be fixed on the first of many great match-ups between these two dazzling point guards. Irving is sixth in the NBA in scoring, averaging 23 points per game while Lillard is 17th in the NBA and first among rookies, averaging 18.2 points per game.

       
    •    The previous game in this won was decided by a Nicolas Batum three-pointer. As mentioned above about the clutch scoring of Lillard and Irving, Batum has been better than both of them in the clutch. Batum is fourth in scoring in clutch situations in the NBA and shoots a blistering 45 percent on threes in those situations. Also, of all the players in the top-10 in clutch scoring, Batum is second in assists behind only LeBron James. Portland is making a case for more than one All-Star and Batum has been making just as good of a case as Damian Lillard.
       
    •    As I said above this game is about the difference in personnel from the first match-up. Anderson Varejao, who was having a career year, is out this game due to injury. He scored 19 points, grabbed 17 rebounds and played great defense in the last game. Cleveland will have Irving this time, which will help them greatly. Portland has to do a better job this time around guarding the three-point line as they surrendered 35 three-point attempts and the Cavs made 13 of them. Batum, Lillard and Aldridge all scored over 20 points and Portland also got a significant bench contribution (29 bench points), which is something you need to survive two overtimes. However, as of late, Cleveland has added a wrinkle that wasn't there in the previous match-up,  bringing rookie guard Dion Waiters off the bench. Waiters is an effective pick and roll player and helps replace what Cleveland loses in the pick and roll when Irving is on the floor. The skills of both overlap at times and this makes sense. However, when both are on the floor together, they take turns running pick and roll. The two are dangerous when they are clicking together. So, it goes without saying that pick and roll defense is a priority.  Also, in Cleveland's previous game in Sacramento, Kyrie Irving probably had his worst fourth quarter of his NBA career, so Portland must be ready for a potential explosion from him tonight.

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