Blazers Escape From Ohio
We survived minus-17 degree temperatures in Denver, the ice rink that was Indianapolis, and a Saturday night snowstorm in Cleveland. Most of all, however, the Trail Blazers avoided becoming that
team, as in, the one that would be the talk of the NBA for being the team the Cleveland Cavaliers beat to snap their record losing streak.
It was very obvious the Blazers were the team feeling the pressure in Saturday night's game in Ohio. Sure, the Cavs were badly wanted to end the skid, but Portland was desperate to see that it didn't happen on its watch. We realized a couple of weeks ago that if the Cavs would be unable to get a win before we faced them, our game would be for the NBA record. You don't want to be in that position.
The plan was, get in, get a win any way possible, and run for the airport. So, at least in terms of last night, it was mission accomplished.
As you know, nothing totally goes as planned in Blazerland however, as in the second quarter yet another player went down with a freak injury. After a steal at the defensive end, Dante Cunningham was decked by a Samardo Samuels elbow, suffered a fractured bone between his right eye and nose, and had to leave the game. This was after Cunningham was moved into the starting lineup to match the Cavs small starters.
We'll get into more of the details at a later time, but Cunningham is fine, and flew home with us, but it was scary. He bled a lot, and it was from his nose and a eye socket. X-rays taken during the game showed a small fracture in a place you don't want a small fracture. He told me on the plane he felt like his eye had been knocked out. Don't be shocked to see Dante wearing a custom-fitted facemask for the rest of the season. They'll check things out now that we're home, but the good news is that he appears to be okay.
What the injury did was throw the Blazers rotation out of whack. Even though it seems they should be used to this, it was tough to overcome. What they needed was something else to carry them through this situation on this night. They found help from an unexpected offensive catagory- the three-point shot.
The Trail Blazers hit a season-high 12 three pointers, on just 19 attempts, and were able to get past the Cavaliers 111-105. Nicolas Batum was 5-6 from behind the arc, Wesley Matthews was 5-7, and Rudy Fernandez was 2-5. The Blazers shot 54 percent from the field, 63 percent from behind the three-point line, and 88 percent at the foul line.
True, the Cavs aren't known as a talented defensive team. But, you still have to knock down the open looks, and Portland isn't always able to do this (I'm telling you things you already know).
To listen to Nate McMillan's post-game comments, click here.
Matthews ended the game with 31 points, Batum had 21, LaMarcus Aldridge had 20 and 10, and Rudy had 17 off the bench.
Displaying his clutch shooting touch late in this game was Andre Miller. He came to the fourth quarter without a field goal, and has been struggling lately on his mid-range shot. It never seems to bother him though, and he hit three huge shots in the final minutes. He hit with 4:30 left in the game, dropped another with 3:35 to go, and yet another, to put the game away, with 1:02 left.
The Blazers finished the trip 1 and 2, and now come home to take on the Chicago Bulls before turning around and going east again. It's the craziest schedule we've ever seen.