The Cavaliers edged out the Portland Trail Blazers last night to end a long drought and match last season’s win total, only in 33 fewer games.
The Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Trail Blazers in Portland for the first time in nine years. To put that in perspective, the Cavs’ lineup at the time included a rookie Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. Furthermore, the Cavs’ current starting point guard, Darius Garland, was only 12-years-old back then. Fast-forward to last night and Garland led the charge in ending that long drought.
Although Garland impacted the result significantly, Cleveland’s victory was far from a one-man show. Several players’ contributions paid dividends in the Cavaliers’ tightly-contested 114-101 victory over a depleted Blazer team. Specifically, Cedi Osman‘s return and Rajon Rondo‘s debut provided pivotal production in this ballgame. Cleveland’s offense fired on all cylinders, but their defense, as usual, made the difference.
Cavaliers Create a 10 Point Cushion
In an otherwise highly entertaining game, the first quarter progressed very slowly. Halfway through the quarter, both teams struggled to knock down their shots and scored just eight points each. Furthermore, sloppy turnovers and lazy effort led to a low-scoring first period. However, in the second quarter, Cleveland turned on the jets. The Cavs’ aggressive shooting ballooned their lead in the second quarter thanks to a team-wide 6/8 shooting from beyond the arc.
The Trail-Blazers continued hanging in there, though. Robert Covington and Jusuf Nurkić, shooting just 17% from deep before last night, drained a couple of threes themselves. Outside of the Cavs’ three-point shooting, Rondo made all the difference in creating some first-half separation. Rondo put up 11 points, 3 assists, and 4 rebounds before halftime, only a handful of minutes into his Cavalier career.
By halftime, the Cavs’ were able to extend their lead to double-digits. Cleveland certainly wanted to carry that momentum out of the break and bury an injury-ridden Blazer team. However, just one minute into the second half, JB Bickerstaff called a timeout following consecutive poor plays.
Trail-Blazing From Deep
It is never a good sign when a coach calls a timeout just sixty seconds into a quarter. “I didn’t like our shot selection to start the quarter,” Cavs’ coach JB Bickerstaff said. “And then there was that possession where we gave up four offensive rebounds.” Although the third quarter still didn’t go the Cavs’ way, Bickerstaff believes his team responded well to the early criticism.
Nonetheless, Cleveland’s ten-point lead quickly dropped to just four by the quarter’s end. Like the Cavs’ second period, the Blazers came out firing in the third by canning 7 of their 15 three-point attempts. Even so, Cleveland maintained control in that third stanza up until the last few minutes, when they surrendered an 8-0 run. Robert Coving spearheaded said run by going 5/7 from deep himself.
However, a critical turning point in this ballgame came when RoCo just barely missed his sixth three. Then, almost immediately afterward, Covington picked up his fifth foul, causing him to sit for much longer than what Portland’s head coach, Chauncey Billups, would have liked.
Cedi Osman for THREEEEE!!!!
On his first night back from health and safety protocols, Osman remained relatively quiet until the final period. However, sharpshooters like Cedi only need one to fall to get the engine rolling. Before the game, Bickerstaff addressed just how valuable Cedi’s return is.
“Cedi gives us a lot of versatility offensively,” Coach Bickerstaff said. “A guy who can catch and shoot… a guy who really runs the floor and get you opportunities in transition, and a guy who can playmake from that wing position.”
While Osman can do all these and more, last night’s focus was all about catching and shooting. Within a brief time span, the 26-year-old Macedonian made not one, not two, not even three, but four treys to revamp the Cavalier lead to ten points. Without a doubt, this spark off the bench is what ultimately made the difference. Additionally, these threes were far from practice jumpers as each one came with heavy coverage.
Although Osman dug the Blazers’ grave, Darius Garland is the one who buried them and wished them a good night. With the game still within reach in the final few minutes, Portland attempted rolling the ball up the court to save time. Simultaneously, Blazer players focused on the bench as it appeared a timeout was impending. However, out of nowhere, Garland sprinted into the backcourt, somehow captured the ball away from three Blazer players, and scored. Consequently, Blazer players got very heated and received a technical foul, killing their morales and odds for winning.
Cavaliers Upcoming Schedule
In their first of a six-game road trip, Cleveland started it out with a solid, uplifting victory. Rondo’s debut is exactly what the Cavs were hoping for. His ability to navigate the floor in such a cerebral way shall take the load off Garland and others. Furthermore, Osman’s return gives the Cavs’ offense a much-needed boost to handle their difficult road ahead. Next up for the Cavaliers is the dangerous but no longer first-place Warriors. Sunday night’s 8:30 pm tipoff will be the front-end of a California back-to-back.
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