Cavs 84, Trail Blazers 83
--Two things learned tonight: 1. The Cavs are an experienced team in close, tight games and the Blazers, even with their success, still have learning to do. 2. Joe Johnson is not LeBron James. --Seriously the Cavs were down 11 points with four minutes to play and LeBron was getting his shots blocked left and right. No one else was thinking about making a shot and this had loss written all over it. But LeBron is just frankly running a barnstorming campaign for MVP and who knows where it will stop. Not only were his 3-pointers major momentum swingers with three minutes left, it changed the Blazers' confidence level in defending him. --All this week on Portland TV and in the newspaper everyone has been lauding Brandon Roy for his defense on Joe Johnson in the final seconds of the Blazers win over the Hawks on Sunday and how the Blazers are so good in close games. Both are very true, but LeBron is not Joe Johnson and the Cavs aren't the Hawks. What the Cavs are is a playoff-hardened great fourth quarter team with the best finisher in the NBA right now. --Roy did not expect LeBron to go left on the final shot, in fact I don't think Roy thought he was driving. He looked caught on his heels because he was ready to contest a jumper and LeBron caught him and the rest of the Blazers by surprise. The help was not there. That was the genius, not the shot. The shot was easy and wide open. --The atmosphere at the Rose Garden was amazing, like a playoff game. Maybe the loudest arena from start to finish I have heard this year. Five years ago the Cavs were here for the home opener and you could tell the fans hated the team. Now, they love them and this will be something special once Greg Oden gets here. In the future, Cavs-Blazers games will be on Sundays and Thursdays, I think. --LeBron did it all with a sore right ankle and hurt left pinky. He said the ankle may bother him tomorrow, we'll see. But his supporting cast really, really owes him tonight. He went 13-of-29, everybody else went 13-of-45. This should've been a loss. --That said, the Cavs played pretty good defense all night. They contested most shots at the rim, especially in the fourth when Zydrunas Ilgauskas was a major factor. And they forced lots of jump shots, which is why the Blazers shot a season-low 35 percent. Plus the Cavs went on runs at the end of the first, second and third quarters to cut leads down to size, which is what good, experienced teams do. --The Cavs are now 12-12 on the road after once being 5-11. They are 9-4 out West and two of those losses were on the second night of back-to-backs in the altitude in Salt Lake, where they barely lost, and Denver. Next week they have a chance to sweep Texas for the first time in like forever. If they win tomorrow, they will have totally swept the coast...both L.A. teams, Golden State, Sacramento, Portland and Seattle. That is pretty impressive. --All the Nike brass was here tonight, including Phil Knight. Based on everything I know, I don't think LeBron has yet been a good investment for Nike by the sheer balance-and-loss statment. His shoes and gear don't move like other $100 million guys like Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan. But you can bet Knight and his execs were quite happy the swoosh was on his feet tonight. --One more thing before I go, I spent yesterday at Nike in the Bo Jackson building where the Cavs were practicing. I am waiting for the end of practice and I wander over to these large white boards under a staircase. They are filled with autographs with dates from athletes who worked out there. It was amazing stuff. A Shaq O'Neal signature from 1992, track star Michael Johnson, Dan Fouts, Tony Gywnn, Jerry Rice, Casey Martin, Wesley Snipes, Kevin Durant when he was at Oak Hill in classic cursive that looked like a fifth graders', and hundreds more that I am forgetting. But what was amazing was that it was literally tucked away in a back corner. I was wearing Adidas shoes and and Under Armour shirt, partially to draw a reaction from the Nike folks. But at that moment under those stairs, I was in awe.
Pregame Starting lineups
Cavs: Larry Hughes, Ira Newble, LeBron James, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas Blazers: Steve Blake, Brandon Roy, Martell Webster, LaMarcus Aldridge, Joel Przybilla
--The Blazers are great at home, 18-4, and they are a streak shooting team, especially from the outside. What will be important for the Cavs is to stay close and to keep steady in their rotations to keep from giving up wide-open 3s. Like Phoenix last week. --Portland has a great bench, led by the surprising Travis Outlaw. Obviously there's no Anderson Varejao. So how the Cavs second unit holds its own will be key. Drew Gooden needs to play better, yes, but Donyell Marshall has to contribute as well. --The Blazers biggest weakness is interior defense, which is why Z is likely a big part of the Cavs game plan. If he has a good game it could make a difference.
Halftime -- Blazers 48, Cavs 42 --LeBron went to the locker room early with what looked like a turned right ankle. That's about all the Cavs could take right now. It happened on a drive to the basket late in the half. He turns his ankles regularly and is OK because his ankles are huge but the way the Cavs luck is going you never know. --The Cavs are struggling on offense. They are not executing much well, even passing. As a result they are not getting many good shots and it shows. They have had success skipping to open 3-point shooters but that is about it. Also they are missing lots of short shots. The Blazers are being aggressive but not doing anything super special. Actually being down just six points and shooting 33 percent on the road is impressive --Portland is winning this game because of volume. They have 13 more shots than the Cavs, which is shocking because the Cavs usually get more free throws than their opponent. They are doing this because they are not committing turnovers and they are getting some offensive rebounds. --Mike Brown got his first technical foul of the year complaining about a charge on LeBron late in the first half. The call was probably right but the official, Mark Lindsay, is weak. --Larry Hughes has three dunks in the last week, that may equal his total for the rest of the season.
Stars LeBron James, 37 points, 14 rebounds Brandon Roy, 16 points LaMarcus Aldridge, 16 points, nine rebounds
Quotes...let me sum them up: "LeBron did what LeBron does."
LeBron: "I do what I do. I prepare myself to be the best player on the floor every night no matter what building I'm in. My teammates feed off than and I feed off them." Mike Brown: "LeBron put us on his back tonight. We couldn't make a basket to save our lives but he did what superstars do." Martell Webster: "LeBron really showed why he is who he is and what he does is what he does."