Originally written on NorthWest Sports Beat  |  Last updated 12/1/12
Boston-celtics-cleveland
Not looking good The Portland Trail Blazers have lost their first four games of their seven-game road trip, and a blowout loss to the Boston Celtics won’t give them momentum heading into their contest with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Matchup: Portland (6-10) @ Cleveland Cavaliers (4-12) Venue: Quicken Loans Arena Time: 4:30 PM PT Date: Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012 The Blazers are in trouble at this point in the year, but a good win can turn things around with only 16 games behind us. Game Notes/How They Match Up J.J. Hickson is set to go up again his former team. (Photo: Bruce Ely/The Oregonian) Both the Trail Blazers and the Cavaliers have a dominant player at the point guard position, but both recognize that their floor generals are score-first point guards; not true facilitators. As a result, both teams are average just 19.1 assists per game, which is only good enough for 26th in the league. The Blazers and the Cavs both have trouble moving the ball around, as both squads have a tendency to resort to isolation basketball. Cleveland runs a faster pace than the Blazers, but that won’t mean that Portland slows it down Saturday night. Teams have a tendency to give in to frantic paces, and a young Trail Blazers squad will likely be guilty of such an act this weekend. Expect Portland to come out looking for their star players early, but when the Cavs start pushing the tempo, the Blazers will likely give into temptation. What to Watch: Portland The Blazers have struggled to get going early on this road trip, and their most recent matchup against the Celtics was no exception. The team shot just 23.3 percent in the first quarter, and they were never able to truly recover from an early deficit. The Cavaliers won’t threaten to blow out the Blazers the way the Celtics did, but a hot start from the home team will knock any remaining air out of a struggling Portland roster. The Blazers are just 20th in the league in first quarter points, and that standing drops to 23rd when they’re on the road. The problem, though, is that they’re also 29th in points allowed in the first quarter. If the team is going to make a statement early, they must do one of two things: score early or lock down defensively. What to Watch: Cleveland The Cavaliers have a young, energetic roster, so it’s no surprise that they love to get out and run. They run one of the faster paces in the NBA, and they push the tempo every game. All that being said, they’re extremely inefficient in transition. They are 28th in fast break efficiency and 23rd in fast break points. Kyrie Irving will match up against Damian Lillard for the first time on Saturday. (Photo: AP/Rick Bowmer) Regardless of their inefficiencies, they’re going to continue running at a frantic pace. If Portland lets them succeed in their style, it’s going to be a long game for the road team. The Blazers must play the kind of defense that makes the Cavaliers uncomfortable, and they have to make things difficult when they inevitably try and score early. Key Matchup Damian Lillard has proven that he is worthy of Rookie of the Year consideration this season, and he’ll be going up against last year’s top rookie n Kryie Irving Saturday night. These two players are score-first point guards, but they’ve shown they can get their teammates involved. Both average near six assists per game, and while Irving is the clear-cut leader of his team, Damian Lillard has quickly become one of the top scoring options on the Trail Blazers. The other great matchup in this game is going to be at the center position. Anderson Varejao and J.J. Hickson are both averaging an insane amount of rebounds this season, but neither garners the attention they deserve. Both players are workhorses, and both players do what they do for the betterment of the team; not the national spotlight. Prediction If the Blazers can’t beat the Wizards, who are we to believe they can take down the Cavs? The players, on the other hand, have to believe they can beat anybody, and that confidence is going to be necessary if they want their first win of the long road trip. Blazers 98 – Cavaliers 95 CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE BLAZERS BLOG IN OUR CLUBHOUSE TODAY AT NWSB!
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