Not their best game but it stops a two game slide. The Cavs trailed for much of the first half and were down by 12 early in the third. After a key substitution (Varejao for Hickson) and an attitude adjustment (LeBron looked downright mean for the last 24 minutes) the Cavs had it tied up heading into the fourth (where the Cavs eventually pulled away).
Things were a bit hairy there in the first half. With Portland missing roughly 50 players and the Cavs coming off two listless losses, I was hoping the Cavs would come out and lay down the hammer. Alas, no dice. Portland got a nice first quarter from Martell Webster (scoring all 13 of his points) and Juwan Howard scored 13 of Portland's first 15 points in the second (personally outscoring the Cavs 13-8). While you couldn't be pleased with them trailing by 10 at halftime, you kinda figured Portland would wear down as the game went on (and hell, before Howard turned back the clock, the Blazers didn't have a point inside the paint).
LeBron came out for the second half on a mission. James scored the Cavs first 9 points of the half (assistsed on points 10 and 11) and changed the demeanor of the Cavaliers (and their crowd). LeBron finished with 33-7-7 and his two-man with Anderson Varejao (who played nearly the entire second half, thanks to Hickson contiually getting schooled by LaMarcus Aldridge) really opened things up inside. James also made the key defensive play of the game. With 24 seconds left and the Cavs holding on to a 99-95 lead, LeBron swatted Brandon Roy's jumper 12 rows deep and seemd to take the air out of the Blazers (however, if I was a Blazer fan, I'd be pissed. ESPN and Hubie Brown seemed to think that the ball was still on it's way up, but I don't think so. It may have not been on it's way down (though I doubt it) but it definitely wasn't still traveling upwards). However, the was a little miscue at the very end, where LeBron and Jamario Moon had a miscommunication on an inbounds (LeBron wasn't looking for the pass, thinking the Cavs were gonna call time out), leading to a Blazer steal and basket (cutting the lead to 101-99).
Shaq played fairly well... before getting hurt. In 23 minutes of court time, the Big Fat Guy had 14 points and 11 boards (3 offensive) before leaving the game after getting scraped across the eye by Joel the Vanillia Gorilla Przybilla (who I really like). With just under seven minutes to go in the third, the Cavs went on a 13-2 run with Shaq scoring 9 points (Varejao had the other 4) and even went 3-3 from the line (including going 2-2 while blind- well done). After hitting his two free throws, Shaq left the game and didn't return (he went to the Cleveland Clinic after the game).
Both Varejao and Mo were close to missing this game with a stomach bug. Varejao played great, scoring 22 points, grabbing 10 boards and harrassing the hell out of LaMarcus Aldridge (who had 22 points but notched a measley 2 boards). Varejao made himself available filling the lane and both LeBron and Williams found him for easy baskets. Mo didn't have his best shooting night (14 points, 5-11 FG, 0-5 3pt) but dished out 10 assists to only 1 turnover.
Make Knick jokes all you want, but I freaking love those blue and orange jerseys. I know the Cavs original colors were wine and gold. That's all fine and dandy. But the reason I love basketball so much is because of those late 80s, early 90s Cavalier teams and these were their jerseys. This may not make sense, but that looked like The Cavs last night. Those were the uniforms I grew up watching. Those were the guys who battled Jordan. If only I could find me a #4 Steve Kerr...
Portland played well despite being undermanned. Aldridge abused J.J. (who did not have good body language on the bench) and Brandon Roy gave them 23-3-6-3 (steals) and former Cav Andre Miller pitched in 23-6-3. I was kinda surprised that Jerryd Bayless only got 8 minutes. The Cavs (re: Mo Williams) have trouble with quick guards and the Blazers could've taken advantage here.
No rest for the weary. The Cavs finished their one-game homestand a perfect 1-0 and head back out on the road to face Kevin Durant and Sonics... Thunder on Sunday evening. The Cavs have five games over their next eight days and they have to criss cross the country to play 'em. They visit Oklahoma City tomorrow, face New Jesery at home on Tuesday, are at Philly on Wednesday, go home for Milwaukee on Friday and then head back out West to Dallas to start a four game, six day road trip. Whew.