By Jason Lloyd
Beacon Journal sports writer
PORTLAND, ORE.: The first 3-pointer of LaMarcus Aldridge’s season was precisely the shot the Portland Trail Blazers needed to end all of the Cavaliers’ fun. For the last couple of years, the Cavs have tried unsuccessfully trying to pry Aldridge out of Portland. This is why.
Aldridge had 32 points and 18 rebounds, including nine consecutive points late in the fourth quarter Wednesday in the Trail Blazers’ 108-96 win over the Cavs at Moda Center. The score was tied 96-96 until the final three minutes, when the Cavs went scoreless and Aldridge carried the Blazers to a season sweep of the Cavs.
“There were two minutes left,” Aldridge said. “I turned to Will Barton and said, ‘It’s my time.’ ”
His time began with a Hail Mary 3-pointer to give Portland a 96-94 lead with 3:18 left. Anderson Varejao had defended Aldridge well on the possession, even knocking the ball out of his hands. Aldridge recovered, checked the shot clock and sank the 3-pointer. He began the night 0-for-6 on 3-pointers and has made a total of four in previous two seasons.
But his 3 Wednesday deflated the Cavs, who were already tired after beating the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday. The well-rested Blazers, ignited by the 3-pointer, ran the Cavs off the floor. The Cavs missed their final six shots and the Blazers made their last five. Aldridge’s 3-pointer ignited the stretch where he scored 9 consecutive points.
“He played MVP-caliber,” Tristan Thompson said. “He got the best of me tonight.”
Luol Deng scored 25 points, Kyrie Irving had 21 points and 4 assists and Dion Waiters had 18 points off the bench, who fell to 2-2 on this road trip and appeared to lose their legs at the end of the game.
“We looked like we were tired, we were gassed a little bit,” coach Mike Brown said. “But Portland had something to do with it. ... They hit that big 3, that took a lot of win out of us.”
Varejao had 14 rebounds, including a tip-in off a Waiters miss to tie the score at 96-96 with 2:54 left. That was the last time the Cavs shot within 18 feet of the basket. Varejao’s tip counted as the only shot within 18 feet over the game’s final 4:28, when the Blazers forced the Cavs into a team of unsuccessful jump shooters.
Damian Lillard had 28 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists and Wes Matthews had 15 points for the Blazers. Each also hit a big 3-pointer in the final minute that sealed the Cavs’ fate.
“Big-time players make big-time shots,” Irving said of Aldridge. “They were just playing off momentum and they just made shots, especially at the end.”
The Blazers are the second-best team in the West and one of only three teams in the NBA with at least 29 victories, yet the Cavs played them to the buzzer before losing at home a few weeks ago and lost Wednesday when they crumbled in the final three minutes.
It’s both aggravating and encouraging to a team that is now 14-25 overall and 4-17 on the road. They close their longest road trip of the season Friday at the Denver Nuggets.
“It’s frustrating because you obviously want to get the win,” Irving said. “But there’s definitely positives that you can take from a loss like this.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.