By Jason Lloyd
Beacon Journal sports writer
CLEVELAND: So many times it has been Kyrie Irving walking the ball down for the game-winning shot. So many times he has converted. But Tuesday he was forced to stand and watch with the rest of his teammates as Damian Lillard’s meteoric rise continued.
Lillard’s deep 3-pointer in the final second gave the Portland Trail Blazers a stunning 119-116 win over the Cavaliers. It was his second buzzer beater in three nights after he also did it to the Detroit Pistons on Sunday.
“Cold-blooded,” Dion Waiters said. “That was a big-time shot.”
Lillard had season-highs of 36 points and 10 assists and tied his career high with eight rebounds, outplaying Irving in a duel between the two most recent Rookie of the Year winners.
Irving had 25 points and 10 assists and Dion Waiters had 25 points and five assists, including 11 points in the fourth quarter, but the Cavs lost this game in rebounding.
The Cavs have rarely been outrebounded this season, but the Blazers entered the game fifth in rebound differential and smashed the Cavs 56-44. It led to 35 points for the Blazers in offensive rebounds, which easily resulted in the difference in the game.
“Going into the game if you’d have said we’d get our behinds handed to us on the glass, I’d say you were lying,” Mike Brown said. “We flat out got beat on that end.”
The Cavs had four-tenths of a second left following Lillard’s big shot, but Irving’s heave from about 30 feet hit the back of the iron at the buzzer.
The game was tied at 101 with 6:05 left following a basket from Waiters, but the Blazers scored the next eight points and the Cavs were scrambling. They trailed 114-104 with 2:15 left but managed to tie it at 116-116 on a layup by Anderson Varejao with 7.1 seconds left, setting up Lillard’s winner.
Andrew Bynum had 13 points and nine rebounds, but didn’t attempt a shot in the second half.
“We don’t know how to get him the ball when teams front him,” Brown said. “Part of Portland’s defensive philosophy is they feel they can play every post player straight up. You can’t play Bynum straight up. I think they realized that at halftime.”
The Blazers switched defensive schemes in the second half and made Bynum irrelevant.
“The teams that front him, we have a tough time getting him the ball,” Brown said. “Sometimes it brings us to a standstill and makes us stagnant offensively.”
The Cavs trailed 92-88 entering the fourth, then scored the first nine points, including six from Waiters, but couldn’t sustain the momentum. Lillard ended the drought with a free throw nearly three minutes into the quarter, then followed it with one of his eight 3-pointers. The Blazers made 15 3-pointers as a team, but the last was certainly the biggest.
The Cavs expected Lillard to take the last shot, so Brown put Alonzo Gee on him for the final possession. Gee gave Lillard a bit of a cushion to prevent him from driving by, so Lillard took the shot from about 30 feet.
“We’ve got all the confidence in the world in Zo. That’s what he does. He locks down,” Waiters said. “In a situation like that, I think you’ve got to get up in him a little bit more. I’d rather him try to drive and shoot a layup than just dribble and step into it. It’s a rhythm shot and he hit it.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at email@example.com. 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.