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Irving's 31 Dooms Trail Blazers

  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 5.0


    The Trail Blazers (20-19) survived a 36-point first half to make it a game again against the Cleveland Cavaliers (10-31). However, the Trail Blazers dug the hole too deep and eventually fell to the Cavs 93-88 in the first game of a five-game home stand. Nicolas Batum led the Trail Blazers with 23 points, 12 rebounds and two assists.

    Coming off of the second night of a back-to-back, coming home after a tough road loss, Portland was in the danger zone. Throw in the fact Kyrie Irving (31 points, 13-24 FG), one of the best point guards in the NBA (averaging 23 points per game, 6th in the NBA) had one of the worst games of his professional career in his last game against Sacramento, that zone becomes more dangerous.

    The Trail Blazers fell behind fast. In the second quarter, the Cavs outscored the Trail Blazers by 12 points, giving them a 17-point lead at half-time.

    "A little bit," said Batum when asked if fatigue was a factor in the slow start. "We didn't use it as an excuse, sometimes we're tired and we still winning, we can't use it when we lost the game. We had a chance to win, we should win this game."

    Wesley Matthews, who scored 17 points on the night, didn't believe fatigue was a factor.

    "Naw, there's no excuses. They played better than us for a half and we couldn't get out of the hole."

    Will Barton, who only scored 1 point but earned 15 minutes including minutes late in the fourth quarter, wasn't sure either.

    "I mean, they do play a lot of minutes," Barton said. "But, they know that coming in. Just like everyone has a job, you know you are going to play a lot, you've got to be ready to play."

    Portland didn't come ready. The Cavs punished them, converting on turnovers (12 in the first half, 17 on the game) and outworking the Trail Blazers. Tristan Thompson was getting offensive rebound possession after possession it seemed, as he finished with 19 points and 14 rebounds, seven of which came on the offensive end. Tyler Zeller played a solid 40 minutes and scored 11 points and grabbed nine boards. Also, something that contributed to Portland's struggles early was Byron Scott's decision to put Alonzo Gee, a small forward, on Damian Lillard, pressuring him full court.

    "They put a big body on him. They didn't put Irving on him, which to be honest, that's a compliment to Damian and how important he is our team," Terry Stotts said.

    Zeller and Thompson were dominating the inside, Portland was turning it over at an alarming rate and Irving was doing as he pleased. Nicolas Batum had 17 points in the first half and was the only Trail Blazers having any modicum of success on either end.

    Portland had to make it a game in the third quarter and they did. They cut Cleveland's 17-point lead down to a manageable nine and help for Batum finally arrived. Matthews (17 points), JJ Hickson (13 points, 11 rebounds) and Aldridge (15 points, 10 rebounds) helped with the scoring and Lillard was setting guys up (seven assists, four in third quarter). Portland was also hitting the glass better too, as they ended up +14 on the boards after being -3 in the first half.

    In the fourth quarter, Portland kept working, and Lillard, who hadn't hit a field goal in the previous three quarters started to find the bottom of the net, scored 10 points . With Batum in foul trouble, Stotts turned to Will Barton (1 point) to fill his minutes and he turned in a solid 15 minutes of mistake-free play and good defense, despite not making a field goal.

    Portland took the lead a one-point lead with 2:07 left. Irving had his worst late-game performance in his previous game and he was on a one-man mission to not make it a trend. With 26 second left, Lillard defended Irving the best anybody did all game long, but Irving, as he does so often in crunch time, hit an impossibly tough shot even after Lillard blocked his first attempt. Portland made a valiant comeback but last year's Rookie Of The Year and the poor first half was too much for the Trail Blazers.

    After four straight losses, all of them close, it seems that a day off couldn't have come at a better time for the Trail Blazers.

    The Trail Blazers face the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday. That game will tip-off at 7PM and will be shown on KGW. It can also be heard on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.

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